Copyright 2016 Amy Cross
All Rights Reserved
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, events, entities and places are either products of the author's imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual people, businesses, entities or events is entirely coincidental.
Dark Season Books
First published: September 2016
This book's front cover incorporates elements licensed from the Bigstock photo site.
A girl goes missing in the heart of London.
A mutilated body is pulled from the Thames.
A mysterious house hides dark secrets, protected by the greatest power in the land.
When her daughter Katie vanishes just a few days after arriving in London, Winifred Wren immediately heads to the city. Frantic with worry, she quickly finds herself stonewalled. Katie's apartment appears to have been ransacked, with strange symbols daubed all over the walls, but the police refuse to help.
And then Winifred meets Annabelle Churchill, a down-on-her-luck journalist who claims to know the truth.
Soon, Winifred learns about the horrors that lurk behind some of London's doors. A mysterious house is said to hide an ancient society, and it quickly becomes apparent that Katie has been drawn into the clutches of a cult. Dark forces are gathering, and an ancient evil is about to be invoked. Meanwhile, the crows and ravens of the city are gathering, preparing for a day that was prophesied two thousand years ago.
The Disappearance of Katie Wren is a horror novel about one woman's search for her daughter, and about the secrets that lurk in one of the world's largest cities.
The First Call
The Second Call
The Third Call
The Fourth Call
The Fifth Call
The Sixth Call
of Katie Wren
The First Call
“You look great!” I tell her as I lean across the sofa and grab my wine glass. “Obviously something about the London lifestyle is really perking you up again!”
“It's a fun city,” Katie replies, her voice crackling slightly as my rather weak wi-fi struggles to cope with the Skype call. “I wouldn't say I've really explored the lifestyle, though. I've only been here three days, Mum!”
“You're already turning into a city girl!”
Leaning back, I take a sip of wine and look down at the laptop screen. Katie has been so sad these past three months, ever since her last (awful, and completely beneath-her) boyfriend took to the hills. Now, even though the lighting isn't great and the video is blocky, I can already see that a change of scenery has had a refreshing effect. At the same time, it's hard to believe that my little darling is hundreds of miles away in the big city. Still, she's twenty-one, and I guess I should have more faith. She's a big girl now.
“Cheers,” I say with a smile, holding up my glass. “To new pastures!”
She holds up a bottle of mineral water and takes a swig.
“You don't have wine?” I ask. “In London?”
She smiles. “You
me to be drinking alone?”
“I'd be quite happy if you were drinking with friends. Have you made any?”
“Give me time, Mum! The summer school doesn't even open until Monday!”
“Hmph!” I take another sip of wine.
“Monday morning,” she continues, “I'll meet all the other fools who've signed up for this class, and I'm sure they won't all be complete monsters. I think some of them even come from abroad.”
“You should invite them all out for a drink,” I tell her.
“Maybe,” she replies, with a faint smile. “I don't want to be too pushy, though. I think most of them are doing the course as a precursor for staying on in September, and -”
“We've talked about that, Katie.”
“I know! And I don't want to stay on in September. I want to come home, back to Shropley.” She pauses, and there's a hint of doubt in her eyes. “I guess I'm just not used to big groups of new people. I know
be fine, but I'm a little more...”
Her voice trails off.
“More what?” I ask, raising an amused eyebrow.
She pauses, evidently keen to choose her words carefully. “Reserved,” she adds finally. “I'm more reserved.” She holds her water bottle up again. “Cheers, though! To being reserved!”
Sighing, I raise my wine glass and take another sip. As I do so, however, I spot a figure walking behind Katie, making its way across her new apartment.
“Who was that?” I ask.
“Who was what?”
“Behind you. I thought you said were alone.”
She turns and looks over her shoulder, first one way and then the other, and then she turns to me again. “What are you talking about, Mum?”
“I just saw someone walk right behind you.”
She stares at the screen for a moment, before turning and looking again. This time, she takes several seconds to glance around the room, before turning to me with a nervous smile.
“Must have been a shadow.”
“I saw someone!” I say firmly, quietly hoping that she's got a hunky city man and simply doesn't want me to know. After all, she
need to live a little. “I'm not completely off my rocker, Katie. Someone walked behind you, it was absolutely clear. I only really saw a silhouette, but there was definitely a person there.”
“How do I rewind this?” I ask, tapping at the keyboard.
“You can't rewind a live call.”
“Well, I certainly saw someone!”
She pauses, before sighing. “Hang on.”
I wait as she gets up and walks out of view.
“Katie, come back!” I hiss. “Are you out of your mind?”
I can hear her moving around the apartment, and a moment later there are some distant clicks. I wait some more, and then I see her walking past the camera, heading over to the windows. Finally she returns and sits down with a tired, heavy sigh.
“All the doors and windows are locked,” she says calmly. “They already were. There's nobody here.”
“I saw someone!” I reply, feeling a little exasperated.
“And how many glasses of wine did you have before we started talking?”
“I'm not -” Sighing, I set my glass down, out of the camera's view. “Katie, how do I rewind this video call? It must be possible. I'll play it again and prove to you that someone was there!”
“You can't rewatch them, Mum. They're not recorded.”
“Maybe Milly's grandson Dylan can get the pictures back,” I mutter. “He's a wizard with computers and -”
“I think I should get off the line,” she adds, suddenly sounding tired. “Mum, I get that you're being protective, but you probably just saw a shadow or some kind of digital buzz in the video feed. There absolutely, positively isn't anyone else in here with me. Besides, if there
someone lurking, do you really think he'd walk straight past the camera while I was talking to you? Of course not. He'd be hiding behind a door or under the bed, clutching a knife, waiting to leap out once the call is over and stab me to death, and then he'd -”
“Alright, alright,” I mutter, sensing that she's not taking me seriously. “Just... Be careful, okay?”
“And double-check those doors and windows before you go to bed.”
She rolls her eyes. “Yes, Mum.”
“And...” I pause, suddenly reminded once again of the vast distance between us. I was used to having her around the house, and now she's gone. “And call me,” I add. “If anything goes wrong, or if you just want to talk, or if you're feeling lonely out there, call me. And call me anyway, after a day or two, to let me know you're okay. You mustn't worry about bothering me, sweetheart. Any time of the day or night, I'm just a Skype call away.”
I hesitate for a moment, and now I realize I have tears in my eyes. I hope the video software isn't picking
“I'll check under my bed for monsters before I go to sleep,” Katie says with a smile. “Now I have to go brush my teeth, okay? Good night, Mum. And remember, don't drink
much wine before bed!”
“I won't,” I mutter. “I just -”
Before I can finish, the call ends and the screen goes blank. I reach out to call back, just to remind her one more time to be safe, but I catch myself just in time.
Leaning back on the sofa, I stare at the laptop for a moment. It's horrible to think of my little girl all alone in that apartment, in a big city she doesn't know at all, but I suppose I should have more faith in her. She's strong and smart, and resilient and wise and all the things one could wish for in a daughter, and I know she'll be fine. And she's probably right, I probably just saw a shadow or something. If Katie says there's nobody in the apartment with her, then I suppose I have to accept her word. She certainly wouldn't lie about something like that.
Reaching across the sofa, I grab the wine bottle and hold it up to the light. I only have about half the bottle left, so there's no point saving the rest. With a sigh, I pour myself another big glass before picking up the remote control and switching the TV on. Maybe I can find something to watch. Something to distract me from the fact that I'm all alone in this big old house.