Read The Magpies Online

Authors: Mark Edwards

Tags: #Fiction, #Psychological, #Thrillers, #Suspense

The Magpies

BOOK: The Magpies
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The Magpies

A Psychological Thriller

Mark Edwards

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2013, Mark Edwards

Contents

Copyright

Prologue

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

Epilogue

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Prologue

She crossed out ‘Paradise’ and wrote ‘Hell’ in its place. The caption didn’t fit the photograph any more. She felt like tearing up the whole album, ripping each picture to shreds, or throwing it on a fire, watching her memories burn. But even that would not erase the images from her mind: they were locked inside her, and she could only hope that time would erode them. More than anything else, she wanted to forget.

It was hard to believe they had once been so happy here. No, that wasn’t right. Looking around at the bare walls, the carpet that bore the imprints of their furniture –which was now waiting in the van outside, ready to be transported to their new home far away from here – it was easy to believe how happy they’d been.

At this moment, the flat looked almost exactly as it had the day they’d moved in: untainted, full of promise, like a blank sheet of paper. Just as it did in the photograph she’d relabelled. Her dad – who had helped them move in – had taken the snap: her and David in the empty room, his arm around her waist, watery sunlight flooding the room. When the photo was developed she stuck it on the first page of the album, writing ‘Paradise’ beside it because that was what it represented. Her and David, looking at the future, full of excitement and hope.

She closed the album and threw it into a packing crate.

She heard voices outside and shivered. For months she had been hearing them, all night, every night, babbling men and women’s voices, sometimes whispering, or shouting, or just talking, talking, never shutting up. She had to sleep with headphones on. She had tried earplugs but somehow the voices got through. The only way she could drown them out was by playing slow, orchestral music that flowed into her dreams and created a soundtrack to her nocturnal life.

In her dreams she would often be carrying a gun. She would be walking down a hallway, determined, white-knuckled as she gripped the handle of the weapon, finger twitching on the trigger. Sometimes the gun would be replaced by a knife: a large knife with a long, fat blade. It didn’t matter. As the music played she would see herself walking down the hall to meet her enemies, the architects of her living hell. She was going to harm them, do to them what they had done to her, but in a more visceral way. As she had explained to her new therapist, she didn’t have time for games or psychology. She needed to deal with her problem more directly. In the dreams, she was filled with the urge to kill.

But she was always frustrated. Just as the people she wanted to hurt stepped out in front of her, the gun or knife would melt, liquid metal dripping to the floor, and the people before her would laugh, and in the worst dreams they would pull out a gun or knife themselves. Whatever: at this point she always woke up.

No more bad dreams, she told herself now. When we’re in our new place – our little house, in the middle of nowhere – there’ll be no more nightmares.

At night it will be silent. It will be dark. There might be animals or birds outside, rustling, hooting, scratching around. That wasn’t a problem. As long as there were no people.

She reached into her bag and took out her cigarettes. God, she hadn’t even smoked until a few months ago. Maybe in their new home she would be able to give up. Her lungs would be clean again. All of her would be clean again. She put the cigarettes away. Maybe she would quit right now.

She ran through a list in her mind. Had they done everything? Was everything packed? She opened the airing cupboard, checked inside. She went into the bathroom, made sure she hadn’t left anything in there. She didn’t want any trace of her and David left in this place. She didn’t want any connection with it at all. At that moment she decided she would get rid of her photographs after all. But she wouldn’t leave them here – she didn’t want anyone getting their hands on them. She would throw them away en route – park and find a bin beside a motorway, far from anyone who had ever known her or would ever be likely to meet her.

Yes, she had to erase all traces of herself from here. She had to wipe out this chapter of her life. The therapist had said that, although it was hardly a great insight, was it? So she vacuumed the place until the bag was full; she had scrubbed the walls until every muscle in her arms and shoulders screamed out for her to stop. She had disinfected the cupboards and the bath and the toilet. She had thrown open the windows and left them like that for days, so all traces of her and David would fly away, out the window, going, going, gone.

‘Are you almost ready?’

David came into the room, looked around at the empty spaces, at the final crates. He had been outside talking to the removal men, telling them to be careful, asking them to be quiet. ‘My girlfriend’s very sensitive to loud voices,’ he said, greeted only by a look of incomprehension.

Now he spoke to her in a hushed tone, pointing to the crates. ‘Are these the last two?’

She nodded.

‘And everything’s packed? Good. Come on, let’s go.’

‘Give me a moment,’ she said.

He sighed, as he so often sighed these days, then bent down and lifted one of the crates, which was just light enough for him to carry on his own. She waited for him to return, looking around for the last time. That was where they used to watch TV. That was where David cooked her birthday meal. There was the spot where they christened the flat, making love on the bare floorboards the day they moved in. There was the spot where…

She squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head, shaking away the memory. She sat down on the edge of the crate, feeling the room lurch around her.

She went outside, walked to the car without looking around her, staring at the concrete in front of her feet. She knew the removal men were looking at her, laughing at her inside the cab of their van, the weird chick who can’t bear the sound of people’s voices and walks with her head bent like an old woman. They thought she was mad. Well, maybe I am fucking mad, she thought. So would they be if they’d been through what she had. She wanted to tell them. Wanted to scream it at them.

She got into the car and tried to calm down. David went back into the flat and brought out the last crate. He put it down and turned round to close the door. She saw him weigh the keys in his hand for a second, and she wondered what he was thinking.

He opened the car door and for one awful moment she thought he was going to tell her that he had changed his mind, that he wanted to stay, that she would have to go back inside. But he started the engine and pulled into the road, the removal van following them.

He didn’t look back. She looked in the rear-view mirror and watched the flat retreat into the distance, into the past, into memory.

‘It’s over,’ David said.

It’s over.

One

‘It’s going to be the hottest flatwarming party of all time,’ Jamie enthused. ‘I think we should make it a fancy dress party.’

‘Excellent idea,’ said Kirsty. ‘With a theme?’

‘No. No theme. Freestyle fancy dress – come as whoever or whatever you like.’

He fell with her onto the bed in the soon-to-be-vacated bedroom in the house she shared with three other nurses and buried his face in her soft hair. He kissed her neck and breathed in her scent – a cocktail of skin and apricot shampoo and the perfume she applied every morning. Walking into her bedroom, where her fragrance hung constantly in the air, always made him feel happy and loved and sexy. And soon they would be living together. They would be sharing a bedroom and he would live with her fragrance – as part of the background of his life – every day. Breath and hair and skin and sweat and all the atoms and particles shed by their bodies day after day – these things would merge to create an atmosphere that was not solely of Jamie or Kirsty, but of them.

‘What will you dress up as?’ she asked as he unbuttoned his shirt and tossed it behind him so it landed among the stacks of cardboard boxes and packing crates that covered the floor: books and clothes and handed-down kitchen utensils crammed together in a haphazard jumble that Kirsty described as her ‘system’. Old CDs and framed prints and her childhood collection of wooden elephants. Her whole life, packed up and ready to go.

Jamie adopted what he thought was a wicked grin, snaking his hand around her back and pulling her against his bare torso. She kissed his chest and looked up at him with her big brown eyes.

‘What will I go as?’ he asked. ‘How about the devil?’

The flat was perfect. From the moment they stepped into the living room and saw the way the light flooded in through the bay windows, they both knew it. Kirsty put her arm around Jamie’s waist and as the estate agent took a call on his mobile, facing into the kitchen behind them, they exchanged a look, excited but fearful. They didn’t even really need to see the main bedroom – although that too was exactly what they’d hoped for – or the spare room or the small, functional kitchen or bathroom. The walls of this place had spoken to them. They both believed they had heard it say their names. Jamie pictured himself collapsed on a comfortable sofa with the TV flickering in the corner, Kirsty in paint-splattered jeans, decorating these walls with a thick brush. Recently, he’d started to picture her with a baby bump. It was like watching an advert of their future life.

The slightly-warped floorboards. The pipes that shuddered when you turned the taps on. The cracks in the window frames. Even the blossom of damp in the bathroom. All of these things contained a kind of charm that was absent in the new-build properties they had seen – places that were sterile and lacking in history. The flat felt warm, a place with a past, with rooms that had housed generations, breathed with life. As they had crossed the threshold, the estate agent had said, ‘Mind the step’, but Jamie had already negotiated it. His feet knew instinctively where to tread.

‘This flat is the best bargain I’ve ever seen,’ the estate agent said, rubbing his bald spot. ‘You’re lucky – you’re the first people to view it. The owner needs a quick sale so they’re asking way under the market value.’ He shook his head.

When they got back to Jamie’s flat, he and Kirsty tried to play it cool. They would wait a while, pretend to be thinking about it. If they didn’t come across too keen they might be able to knock the price down even further. Even at a bargain price, the flat was at the very top of their price range anyway. They would only be able to afford it by sacrificing a few other things. They would have to stick with Jamie’s battered car, for a start.

‘Let’s wait till tomorrow,’ said Jamie.

‘Yes.’

‘But what if somebody else makes an offer in the meantime?’

‘They won’t.’

‘No…’

‘But they might.’

They both looked at the phone. Jamie snatched it up and called the estate agent. They made an offer: £3,000 less than the asking price. They chewed their nails while they waited for the agent to call back.

Later that night they were celebrating. They ended up reducing the price by just £1,000 – and they spent a small chunk of that on a bottle of expensive champagne which they drank together in the bath at Jamie’s. They weren’t even going to be stuck in a chain. They were first-time buyers and the flat was empty. ‘Tomorrow,’ Jamie said, as he popped the cork on the bottle of champagne and Kirsty held her glass out, ‘I’ll phone Richard and give him my notice on this flat.’

They clinked glasses.

‘To our new home.’

The day of the party arrived, and during the afternoon Paul turned up with a white van full of bottled lager and four crates of white wine. ‘I know a bloke who does runs to Calais,’ he said. ‘Fills up a van and sells the contents to his mates. He can get you anything: booze, cigarettes, perfume. A nice wife from Latvia. Whatever you want. Not that you need a mail order bride, you lucky bastard.’

Jamie and Paul sat on the front step in the sunshine and sipped from small green bottles of continental beer while Kirsty and her best friend, Heather, blew up balloons indoors. It was a gorgeous day, gossamer clouds strung out like dinosaur bones across the blue sky. The city was warming up and London was coming back to life after a winter that had felt like a new Ice Age.

BOOK: The Magpies
8.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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