Authors: Sam Hawksmoor
The door gave way, a huge bubble of air escaped as water flooded into the room. A boy yelled at him angrily and began to panic as the cold water flowed in from the corridor. Miller managed to grab some air before the room filled completely. He snatched the boy and kicked out the window. The boy looked terrified now, gasping for the last air. He must have managed to stop the water flowing into his room somehow, but been trapped there ever since.
Miller wrapped a blanket around the boy’s head in case the broken glass cut him and then he launched them both out of the window, swimming back up to the surface, now some two metres above the roofline.
He ripped the blanket off the struggling boy. They gasped for air. The boy looked around him, couldn’t believe he’d been sat in a house under water all this time.
Miller put an arm around his chest and swam on his back to higher ground. He could hear shouts and cheering.
There was still no sign of the rescue team he’d requested.
On higher, dry ground, he lay there in a heap, exhausted, as others took the bewildered boy off his hands.
Only then did he realize who he had rescued. Frickin’
Martin Pol. The thirteen-year-old juvenile he’d arrested two months ago for handling stolen property. The kid recognized him. Didn’t say thanks. His tattooed father was stood there, took the boy off his hands. Didn’t say thanks either. That’s a police officer’s lot. Saving criminals’
lives. He smiled. Kind of ironic.
‘Here,’ someone said, offering him a drink of something. ‘It’s hot.’
Miller took it, drank it. He’d been on duty twenty-four hours now. At least the water had stopped rising.
He lay back on the road. The sun came out. He felt like he could sleep now, never mind being soaked. Just needed to sleep.
‘You’d better get out of those wet things,’ a voice told him. ‘Do you know where they’re taking the bodies?’
Miller opened his eyes. The bodies. Hundreds of bodies. He’d saved one useless life. Some stupid hero he was.
‘Last I heard they were being kept at the elementary school on Jackson Street.’
‘Thanks, Officer. You did good.’
Miller sighed. He needed to go home, rest. He looked out across the vast expanse of water where at least a quarter of Spurlake was buried and for a brief moment wondered about that kid, Genie Magee. Had she survived?
He hoped so. Never been so shocked in his life in finding the heavily barred window on the ground outside and double locked jail door to her bedroom. What if there had been a fire? The mother’s hostility to her daughter was another thing. What the hell was happening in Spurlake? Used to be such a good place to raise kids.
What would it be like when the water receded? Would people even want to rebuild?
He stood up. Somewhere back up the hill was his own home. Dry, untouched. Safe. Time to go home.
Marshall had an air of sadness about him. Seemed to carry it with him. Genie could sense it as they walked behind him towards his house. She looked around her at the battered trees and bushes and wondered how anyone could stand living so far out of town. There was no one around. No homes in the distance, nothing. It was a lonely farmhouse where no one would ever wander by. Had he chosen it because he was lonely, or because he wanted to be alone?
A dog came out of nowhere. Silent, but wagging its tail, excited to see people. It made straight for Genie and she hugged it hello. ‘Hey, where did you come from, dog?
Look Ri, it’s a French dog. My cousin in Quebec has one just like it. Berger Picard. Isn’t it beautiful? Look at its eyes, its ears. Oh, it’s adorable!’
Rian saw how instantly happy she was, and smiled.
Of course it
a pretty cute dog.
‘How long have you had him?’ Genie asked the farmer.
The dog was lying on its back so she could tickle his tummy. ‘Not mine,’ Marshall said. ‘Moucher’s my ex-wife’s.
She abandoned it.’
Genie could see that the farmer wasn’t happy. If she had this dog she’d never be alone. Ever. Couldn’t he see that? Bergers were the best friends anyone could have.
Marshall continued walking towards the house. Genie and Rian followed exchanging glances, the dog running ahead and back again, as if herding them.
The storm had done some damage to the surroundings here. A tree was uprooted very close to the house and the barn roof looked to have some gaps where the sheet metal had blown away. ‘Lucky not to have that tree on the house,’ Rian stated.
Marshall ignored him. Rian shot a look at Genie but she didn’t seem to notice anything amiss. He trusted her instincts would warn them if something bad was going to happen.
He brought them in via the back door, leading into the kitchen. It was a large old-fashioned space with a huge range and a long wide pine table that could probably seat twelve people at least. Looked really old too.
Moucher went to his bowl, saw there was nothing and stamped on it, upturning it. Genie laughed because it was so expertly done, then felt sorry for it.
Marshall sat down at the head of the table and placed his hands flat on the pine surface. Genie noticed he was sweating a little and out of breath. The walk from the barn had been hard for him somehow. ‘You OK?’ Rian asked.
Marshall shook his head.
‘Get me a glass of water, from the fridge. Can’t trust tap water after that storm.’
Genie was at the sink and had come to the same conclusion. Brown water was cascading from the tap.
‘Gross. Not nice.’
She went to the fridge. It didn’t smell so good now the power was out and things were beginning to go off. She found three bottles of water still slightly chilled. Poured some for the dog and the farmer. She gave to the farmer first, then the dog, who quickly drank it, but was clearly disappointed it wasn’t actual food. Genie had the beginnings of a major headache now herself. She was hungry, that’s all.
Rian was looking around the kitchen. It looked uncared for. Now he looked more closely, the farmer looked pretty uncared for as well.
‘Your wife left recently?’
Marshall took a pill out of a small tin box and popped it in his mouth, chasing it down with half the glass of cold water. He looked at Rian with a practised stare.
‘Boy, I am going to tell you something that you need to remember as long as you live. Never,’ he paused a moment to mop his brow. ‘Never marry a woman you met in a bar.’
Genie almost laughed, but his serious expression told the story. Whoever she had been, she had gone and with it any happiness he thought he might have had.
Rian sat down. ‘Duly noted, sir. Genie and I met at high school and I intend to be with her the rest of my life.’
Marshall looked at them both a while and slowly nodded. ‘That what you want, girl?’
Genie frowned, snatching a look at the dog sitting looking quizzically at her. ‘Well, I’m torn now. If Moucher doesn’t ask me to marry him first.’
Rian laughed and Marshall smiled briefly. ‘You can keep ’em both,’ he told her. ‘Like I told you, not my dog.’
Genie began to cough then and she could feel how sore her throat was getting.
Rian was looking at the kitchen range. Marshall saw him staring at it.
‘I know what you’re thinking, boy. Power’s out. How we going to make breakfast? Well, so happens we got propane. There’s eggs, there’s bread in the biscuit tin, some beans in the larder and I think I got some
mushrooms. Picked ’em before the storm. You want to get busy with that? I just need to sit a while. My heart . . .’
Genie looked at him more closely. He had seemed well when they had first met him, but now he looked quite pale and uncomfortable, as if he wasn’t getting enough air.
One thing Rian liked to do was cook breakfast, and to cook for Genie was a double pleasure. He coughed and tried to swallow, wincing a little. His throat was getting worse. His hands felt clammy.
Marshall noticed that he was clearing his throat more than was necessary.
‘Kids. I got some antibiotics in the bathroom cabinet, room next to my bedroom, across the hall. You’re both going to need them – you especially, girl, that gash on your arm needs iodine on it. Brown bottle in the cabinet.
Lot of nasty stuff in that river water. You’re both going to be ill – I can see it in your eyes. You can both rest up here until you’re ready to move on. I’m bad company most of the time, but I got the space. Bathroom shelf, next to the shaving cream. Pill packet marked Ampicillin.
‘Don’t you need them?’ Genie asked, her voice breaking up a little.
‘I can always get more. You might have a problem with
that. Might have a problem with a lot of things in the near future. You’ll need to be well.’
Genie went to get the pills. She was wondering how it was they had been so lucky to meet up with someone so generous. So uncritical. Meanwhile, back in Spurlake, they’d probably be going crazy that they were missing, but he didn’t seem to care about that at all.
The hallway was almost as big as the kitchen. The staircase snaked up the centre of it to the next floor and clearly whoever had built this had wanted it to be very grand indeed. There was a huge framed photograph of Spurlake on the wall taken at least eighty years before.
Empty streets and a mess of telephone wires everywhere.
Must have been so strange to live back then. One thing caught her eye though. Munby Sawmill. There was a young man standing outside the building under the sign and holding on to a giant saw almost twice his own height. Her great grandfather maybe? There was a Roxy movie theatre nearby and she made out an ice-cream parlour. All vanished now. She remembered that her mother had told her that once the Munbys had money and influence in Spurlake. That too had vanished. Name was mud now.
She found Marshall’s bedroom and entered. It smelled musty and damp. She did wonder why he slept on the
ground floor, but then he did have that limp . . .
It was dark, so she pulled the curtains wide open to let in light, then turned and surveyed the room. An unmade double bed, pine cupboard and a canvas-backed chair with clothes piled on top. Several pairs of men’s shoes kept in open boxes on the floor and women shoes gathering dust on a rack in rows. There was something curious about
shoes. She didn’t immediately pick up what it was.
She turned to head for the bathroom when she spun on her heels and looked at his shoes again. They were all
, never been used by the look of them.
Genie puzzled over that as she opened the creaking bathroom door.
The pills were exactly where he said they would be. A full packet. The label said:
Two a day, avoid milk when taking this medicine
. There was enough, she hoped, to treat both of them. She knew they were going to get sick, but if they could hit it fast, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.
She looked in the mirror and even though the light was dim she could see she looked a mess. She had no idea the bruises looked this bad. How Rian could like her at all she didn’t know. Her heart sank. She looked like a crash victim. It was as she was dabbing iodine on the cuts on her arm with cotton wool that something else caught her
eye. She looked into the mirror to one side, and saw faces.
Young faces. She slowly turned and saw there were newspaper cuttings pasted on to the wall above the bath, all the way up to the ceiling. Every missing kid from Spurlake. Every pathetic plea for help. She stared at them and felt the hairs on her neck rising. She hadn’t realized how many there were. Just one town. One small town, to have lost so many children. Was this why he had sent her to the bathroom? To see this? Why? She saw scissors lying on the floor, part of a dismembered newspaper in the waste bin.
What was going on here? Why did the farmer have these pictures on the wall?
Why was Julia, aged fifteen, on this wall? Why Miho?
Come to think of it, how Miho? She was supposed to be in Japan. Since when was she missing? Why Randall? A huge obese kid of fourteen. Maybe he was being bullied for being fat, but why had the others gone? Were their lives in Spurlake so terrible? Hers was, but could it be so bad for so many others too? What did this farmer know?
Did he make them disappear? Was this about to happen to Ri and her?
Genie was suddenly terrified. She put the stinging liquid down and had to pee, she was so scared. She lifted the toilet seat and quickly sat down. She couldn’t help but
stare at the pictures and count them. Thirty-four kids.
Thirty-four children from her town had gone missing in just two years, not counting herself and Ri.
Was this bath where he killed them? Imagined she saw bloodstains. She stood up again.
Get us out of here. Out of this farm. What have we got ourselves into?
She washed her hands in brown tap water. She realized she was shaking. She could hear Rian calling her now.
He sounded real worried.
‘Coming,’ she answered, and stumbled out of the bathroom. She saw the man’s shoes again and the wife’s. A woman might leave a man, but would she leave her shoes?
Had he killed her too? Was this man a serial killer?
She was sweating now. She was dizzy and could barely walk in a straight line. She heard her name being called again, urgently this time.
He must have known she would see the newspaper cuttings. Was he taunting her? Clearly he meant to terrify her.
She made it into the kitchen, expecting to see Rian already disembowelled or his head cut off, but a completely different scene faced her.
‘Help me,’ Rian asked. He looked totally spooked as he stared at Marshall lying on the floor. ‘He suddenly rocked back and fell. He’s unconscious,
Genie, and his leg fell off.’
Genie looked at the man sprawled out on the floor, looked at Rian and his worried expression and then she felt her eyes fluttering and the floor was coming up to her. ‘Genie!’ Rian shouted as he dashed forward to catch her, place her on a chair.
She heard the dog barking in the distance. It was then she vividly saw Anwar’s face again as he had looked down at her from her wall at home.