Steve Merrifield
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Steve Merrifield Manybooks Edition, License Notes


Thank you for downloading this free ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form. If you enjoyed this book, please return to manybooks.net to discover other works by this author. Thank you for your support. for Rob who encourages and supports me in all that I do HARVEST Steve Merrifield Prologue: End of Days The Year 60 CE The centurion ran. Slipping and sliding in the mud that sucked at his bare feet. His sandals had been claimed by the boggy ground at the start of his race through the trees. He had sacrificed the shelter his tall shield offered against the onslaught of rain for a burning stake to light his pursuit through the darkness. The guttering orange light plucked twisted trees clawing out of the dark. The branches were buffeted by the bitter wind that drove the deluge of rain into his face. His frantic fingers plucked at the clasp on his shoulder and he shrugged off the burden of his waterlogged cape. Beyond his arena of light, the bold moonlight became his ally and he picked out the shadowy shape of the white-haired old man he hunted. The armed natives that had defended the camp had largely been unskilled in war, and had fallen easily to the centurion's forces in a short bloody battle. However, the remaining tribe had turned on the raiders. In an unsettling nightmarish skirmish, the weak, the old, the women -- some with babes in their arms, and the children themselves, had all flung themselves at the soldiers with wild eyes and chilling screams. They had desperately grabbed and clung to his soldiers, giving up their chance to flee; sheathing his men's swords with their bodies, to ensure the elder of their tribe could escape. The centurion had not been so easily distracted; he had left his men to slay the remaining natives while he chased the feeble old man. "Feeble", yet the old man had somehow overcome the miring mud that was almost defeating him; a soldier of the empire in his athletic prime. The soldier was stopped by the shock of icy water washing over his bare feet, and he suddenly realised the rushing sound of a stream beneath the constant hiss and drum of the rain. Angling his torch down he could see the shallow stream driven into a wild race by the lashing rain and the dark mounds that dammed and channelled its flow. The shapes were corpses, boars, deer, horses, cattle -- from what he could see each had a deep glistening rent in its throat or a dark puncture wound in its head. Sacrifices. Offerings to the water of the earth, or whatever Gods these people worshipped, exchanges for potency of power and magic. Sacrifices that spread as far as he could see in either direction of the stream. More offerings than he had seen before. He didn't let the sight stop him, but used the corpses as stepping-stones to cross to the other side, as the elder had surely done. It hadn't been the first disturbing sight of the night -- that had been when he and his men had uncovered the bodies in the tribes' camp. The seven scouts he had sent out over the last week. Their heads missing.

Steve Merrifield


The centurion found himself in a grove of oaks and sycamores that lead to a broad dark clearing. The old man stood in the middle. The soldier slowed his pace so that the sounds of the storm would hide his approach. Many of the resistant native tribes had been massacred in the past months; those that remained were scattered and ineffective, their leaders slain, their shamans and holy men fleeing their homes and lands on the island to head across the sea into the west and exile. This elder and his tribe were organised, and had headed away from the coast and a chance of escape, so that they could travel to this place. There had been whispers among prisoners taken in the lead-up to this raid, rumours that this shaman was opposed to co-operation and to retreat and was set on a course of action unsupported by the other mystics. The soldier blinked the rain from his eyes and wrapped his fingers around the wooden hilt of his weapon as he marched with quickened determination. Whatever reason this elder had come to this land so foolishly close to the port of Londinium, he would not escape. The centurion would end his life and finish his mission: his part in the completion of Governor Seutonius Paulinus's plan to cleanse the land of the barbarian native resistance. His senses focussed on the night air, crisp around him, and the continual rapping fingers of rain on the shoulders of his leather tunic and his helmet. Blue light flashed with magnesium brilliance from the sky and a ribbon of energy dumped itself into one of three chest-height misshapen standing stones positioned just paces from where the old man stood. The soldier gathered himself from cowering, recovering from the crater in his resolve that the sudden explosion of shock had left. The old man was still there, unscathed and unmoved. The centurion returned his grip to his weapon, withdrew the wide flat blade from its sheath, and made his final approach with a quickened step. The old man's foreign lyrical tongue danced on the wild air. The centurion's torch guttered and crackled with the deluge, weakly picking out the details of the man as its radius of light encompassed him and gave away the soldiers approach, yet the frail man made no attempt to escape. Another blast of light hit the second stone in the triangle with a similar spray of sparks, lighting up the area and revealing seven bloody heads with wild eyes piled on a large fresh swelling in the soil that seemed to move and undulate in the midst of the stones. The soldier blinked away the blue vein of light from his eyes in time to see the old man cast small items on to the swelling. The old man's poetic voice died abruptly, his tongue stilled in his palette. The last breath he had drawn drifted out of him in a slow exhalation. The shaman's head lolled forward, staring at the foot of bloodstained sword that jutted from his chest, its wickedly angled tip pointing into the darkness. His legs buckled beneath him and a golden sickle tumbled from a gnarled hand. The soldier angled his skewering blade toward the ground and the elder slipped from the sword into a bloody sprawl of robes at his feet. The soldier had expected a third strike of lightning on the remaining stone in as quick a succession as the other two, but was grateful that it hadn't -- the two strikes had been unnerving enough. In the flickering light of his torch the centurion cast an eye over the small engraved tablets the elder had cast on the mound along with acorns and sprigs of holly and mistletoe. The heads of his scouts were gone. The soldier re-sheathed his blade, now cleaned by the rain. The swelling in the earth sagged and the broken clods were quickly re-knitted by the flow of water chasing along the ground as the downpour continued. Confused and unsure of what he had plundered into, he flashed the standing stones with a cursory glance of his torch, and saw that each monolith was marked with an identical trident-like symbol that meant nothing to him. The soldier kicked and stamped the old man's tablets and offerings into the soft ground, and took satisfaction in the completion of his mission.

Steve Merrifield The Present The daytime sun had baked the concrete towers that reached up for fourteen stories into the north London skyline. The communal gardens and walkways between the three tower blocks had been cast in shadow all day, but offered no relief from the unrelenting heat. The night offered little change in temperature.


The night-time June air was thick with a heat and a heaviness that weighed down upon everyone on the estate. It made sleeping difficult and bedclothes impossible. All waited for the distantly rumbling storm to clear the life-draining veil that had smothered the residents for several days and nights. The Heights had once stood proud among the typically low-level buildings that surrounded it. It was to be the start of new life in the community, offering a better standard of living, there to solve the problem of a growing city population. Now, forty years old, the buildings of the high-rise estate stood like depressed giants of a forgotten time and abandoned ideals. The shops that had been built into the base of the east tower had been gutted by fire and had never re-opened. The boarded-up windows and sealed doors of the shops gave a depressing view to those who headed to the flats themselves. The Heights didn't have the reputation of the local Somers Town area for its social problems, nor did it have the desirability of the period apartment buildings of Kentish Town and Highgate, or the more modern purpose-built flats that had developed. For those new to seeing the estate it could easily share the stereotypical reputation of buildings of its type as being dirty, dangerous, poverty-filled and rife with drugs. However, there was a difference within the towers: there wasn't a drug problem on the estate, most residents had jobs and supported themselves and its tower design ensured security; the only danger would be from the residents themselves and those that were invited in, and as a result it was more secure than most homes. In the same way that the locals had lobbied to keep the inadequate Camden Town Underground station for fear of changing the character of their town, there was rumour that the three towers were being considered for a preservation order. Their height afforded some of the resident's views and glimpses of the areas that drew people to Camden, and if you were high enough, a panorama of the city basin, important considerations in the growing gentrification of the City's more rundown suburbs, and for buyers not wanting to pay a fortune for that always desirable view. More importantly than all these aspects there was a sense of community, a community of casual smiles of recognition, a general familiarity with the people that shared floors or met regularly in the lifts and stairwells. Veins of brilliant white light chased each other down from the sky, disappearing in the horizon, leaving a brief purple, red and blue memory of its pattern in the eyes of those who watched. Thunder creaked through the air like slowly splintering tree trunks before the sound opened up into the shuddering booms of falling bombs. After a short while a rushing noise and an uplifting cool breeze swept through the estate, chased by a wall of rain that slammed against the parched earth and paving and ran off in rapid currents. The three towers stood amongst the dancing shafts of light that ripped the sky asunder, conquering the local skyline solid and strong, weathering the rage and power of nature. A bolt of energy lanced through the sky with blinding light and fury, striking the east tower. The raw power flashed through the narrow copper conductor running the height of the building and pounded into the ground with a dull wet thud and a spray of sparks. The tower plunged into darkness. The full 20,000 volts passed harmlessly into the ground. The energy radiated out and enriched the soil with its nitrogen, finding forgotten bones and ancient flesh buried deep down. Completing a forgotten ritual and giving them life. It reached out from its flesh and bones with It's mind and senses. The air was thick with smells and tastes, and charged with noise and energy. Altogether different from the world It had fleetingly experienced so long ago. It could feel the minds of those above. The energy of so many lives. The world was brimming with life, while It

It would grow stronger.Steve Merrifield was so weak. Too weak to reach them. The balance would change. Part One: The Reaping Begins 5 .

no more spots that had kept him from being attractive. Except." He winked. He concentrated on preparing his equipment but he felt self-aware. caught by the flaws within himself that high school had fleshed out. . How could I forget? Had you at my desk a few times to push your studies in your final year if I remember. isn't it?" Craig couldn't believe it -. The headmaster strolled up to him. Craig had wished he could have been rebel enough to flunk those exams just to infuriate Benchman. to be an example to the other teachers.you haven't changed much. a picture of rebellion with his shirt untucked. Craig didn't want redemption though. Benchman had put on his final report that Craig was an under-achiever. but without the blazer that had been mandatory. Benchman had been his form tutor in his final year -." "That's right Craig. subjects Benchman had been head of in his rise to the top. he wanted Benchman to see he was still a rebel and hadn't conformed to what his headmaster had wanted for him. and more satisfying than that Benchman had no power over him. Craig hadn't changed much in appearance. "Digby? Digby. eh? So you do this to make up the money?" He nodded over his shoulder to the children who were now arranged and seated in an order of height and symmetry. The man still wore cheap bland grey suits that emphasised the aura of falseness about him. wanting desperately to end his sentence with "you wanker." Craig acknowledged. he told himself. Craig had maintained a dislike for him until the day he had finished his final exam and left the secondary school. Craig corrected him as casually as possible. Media and Graphic Design lessons was largely at the expense of his work within Maths English and Science. "So this is your line of work now." There was no malice in his tone but the word "artistic" was emphasised as if it was taboo. but he was still of average height with messy unkempt blond hair and blue eyes. The hypocrisy burned him now as it had back then because Benchman was the embodiment of it. The head had realised Craig's commitment to his Art. his shoulders broader but still lacking the muscle behind his build." Craig suspected Benchman deliberately mistook his name and he heard an underlying accusation in the last part of his sentence. "Actually.Benchman was still head teacher at the school. and his tie was now neater than it used to be.Chapter One 6 Chapter One Craig Digby checked his camera and adjusted the angle towards the schoolchildren being corralled into place in the sports hall of the school by their teachers. He had pushed for Craig to work harder in those areas. Craig simply smiled. forced him by restricting his time in the art and design rooms. It was strange being back at the secondary school he had left eight years previously. I'm a freelance photographer for the local paper." "Freelance. is it? You were always more artistic than you were academic. He remembered his frustration in the fifth form at the contradiction of being expected to act as an adult while being treated as a child. he was twenty-four had achieved good school college and university grades and was unquestionably an adult. "Colin Digby. His redemption was that his untidiness was now trendy. Thought I recognised the name -. "That's right.no one wanted Benchman as their form tutor in the exam year because he wanted their passes to reflect his influence on the pupils. Yet now his hair matched his suit. He stood unflinching as he had done at school. Craig might be stubborn but he wasn't stupid. unfazed by authority.

She was sure they wouldn't know it was her crutch. He fixed Craig in his sights and drifted into that deliberating look he gave his pupils for late homework excuses or if he disagreed with a pupil's opinion. did well in business studies and maths." Benchman got his name right first time. He still towered over Craig. Benchman looked down at him through his glasses. We moved back to Bath as Mum wasn't happy." Craig corrected and boasted. scoring himself a point. "Yes. "Prick!" Kelly Mason walked around the east block of The Heights to get to the main entrance. He hated it even more because under the glare of those eyes he found himself agreeing with what Benchman saw and thought. "What's he doing with himself now?" "He's running the family business with my dad. Craig settled behind the camera." The last bit was an exaggeration. saw Benchman's gaping trouser zip and the off-white triangle of underwear it exposed and grinned wickedly. Flash. Perhaps they respected it or got some security in seeing it. I do a variety of photographic work. "Smile!" Craig called to the assembly. They didn't know her past and how much it now meant for her to have something that she belonged to. 7 "Better let you get on with it. "You had a brother here too didn't you? Darren?" "Yeah. with her uniform and what she represented." Benchman flashed a grin and strode away. Got a first. or whether they hated her or resented her because of it." Was he scoffing? "I returned for University actually. He had his head screwed on. She knew most of the faces she saw. I get some displays in galleries from time to time. but more important than other people's perceptions was that it gave her something to hide behind and devote herself to. It had been a while since he had had the time to put together a portfolio and a display. Typical. I thought you had moved away after your final year. . For a degree. He didn't know how Benchman could be so fucking smug." "Yes. Losing all his junior school pals in the process." Losing him all his mates from secondary school." Craig's family had moved to London from Bath at the start of his secondary education.Chapter One Craig prepared his return and decided not to bite on the assumption of how much he was paid. from what Craig had read the only notable Alumni the school had produced were two serial killers. She often wondered whether they feared her. which was essentially an unanswerable last-judgement. He took his seat and folded his arms sternly and produced a prepared smile. prepared the shot. Craig remembered the look. then. and they knew her. She smiled and nodded to people she passed. the same smile that had stared back from Craig's own school year-photos. I remember. even as an adult Benchman made him feel small. "And you returned to the big city to make your fortune. "Not really.

Harry!" She clumsily brushed the slimy waste from his fingers as if cleaning a messy child. Warm air assaulted her with the pungent smell of rotting food and waste baked by the heat wave.Chapter One 8 That's why she wore her police uniform on her journey home while others changed back into their civvies at the Kentish Town station where she was based. but it wasn't due to be collected until tomorrow. Since then he had only given her sheepish smiles of acknowledgement and had retreated hastily. Her movements became cautious and quiet as she approached them." She hooked her hand under his arm and ignored the feeling of grime. to know that at thirty-four she was finally strong and in control of her life. which is where she wanted to be. She was startled from her thoughts by a muffled crash." Craig reached the door to his flat in the east block of The Heights. She would hang it on the back of her bedroom door in her flat so she could see it from her bed. Virtue Kafar sauntered along the corridor from the lift behind a pram." She walked over to him and took the old man gently by the arm. his hair dishevelled and matted with thick grease. The torch light plucked a grizzled face from the dark to startle her. "How are you?" . the damp-blackened concrete gave the ceiling a cavernous depth that conspired with the dark. which was full of bags from the chute opening in the lobby. his face flushing. known for his eccentric dementia. "Harry Crabb. Craig faced the slender young woman and said a quiet hello to her. but before he could enter it his neighbour called out to him. as far from that time and that self as possible. You get meals on wheels. "Come on. The dark rushed in on the shrinking rectangle of light falling through the doorway except for a dull green glow on the far wall. She gave one last hesitant and puzzled look into the void. She was a lifetime away from what she used to be like. "Alright. although she decided that Harry would be contributing to the ripe air himself. Craig had seen her soon after. You don't have to keep doing this. trying not to think about his unsanitary state. You know you aren't meant to be in here. She eased one open and peered in. his lower jaw was masked in thick stubble that was stained and crusted in places." -and a terrible stench.. Harry let's get you home. in passing as they were now. come on out of there. Grime and dirt masked the pale and aged flesh. She plucked the large torch from her belt and snapped it on. I'll take you. "Oh. Kids? She didn't not understand why anyone would want to be in there. Kelly got him to the doors and he turned awkwardly in her grip. "Goodbye. She looked down at a black plastic sack that was ripped open with its contents strewn about and picked through. She was sure the sound came from the rubbish storage area. Odd. "How did you manage to see a thing in here?" she mumbled incredulously. She was able to ignore the morsels of food nestled at the sides of his mouth because his strange expression of warm nostalgia was so distracting. there's nothing there but bags of rubbish. Kelly frowned and scanned her torch through the darkness of the room and then back into his face. Her boyfriend had died six months previously. "You have a home you know? It's not like when you were on the street. She looked at the double doors that clearly instructed 'NO ENTRY'. "Harry!" she chastised. Come on. Harry squirmed in her grip. and he had blurted out his condolences to which she gave him a flicker of a smile in thanks before scurrying away with tears in her eyes.." She closed the door on the rank smell. She put the back of her hand to her mouth and wrinkled up her nose against the smell as she stepped in to the darkness. "Harry. she would look to it and what it represented. Slivers of greasy meat hung from his hand." he called over his shoulder into the room. and she had just passed Alec the caretaker. she didn't remember seeing a green light bulb or anything that would have cast that light. Harry was a resident of the tower. When she couldn't sleep for the solitude of the night. Harry. She looked about the large room.

He made the same play of retrieving his keys. yeah" He was relieved to be let off from having to figure out how to approach the elephant-in-the-room-boyfriend. Will had even come in and showed him how to use it. or how Billy is. "That's nice of you. wasn't it?" Her eyes flitted between his face and various locations in the corridor. However. It felt wrong. Harry Crabb. He had received a warm hello from both Virtue and Will." "I understand." "If you don't ask me how work is then we have a deal. Craig had never taken their offers up.that was the first and last time Craig had called on Harry. "I think it did. you mean. Her boyfriend had died. He had told Craig that he was welcome to join him and a few of his mates for a kick around on the common ground on Sundays. "Sure. "ish. "Craig. "Can it be about me. She was only a few years older than him and had lost so much. He felt a twinge in his chest like an old wound. but can I ask you a favour?" He would be more than happy to do anything for her. when you ask how I am. had given him an absent stare then closed the door on him -. or bypass that and just pass on the gossip of the block? I don't get as much of that as I used to since Will died and Billy was born. "When you ask me if I am okay. She went through the actions of retrieving her keys from a pocket in her sweatshirt and pushing a stray band of hair behind her ear." ." "That was a bit heavy for a casual hello. Virtue had picked up that he lived alone and offered him round for dinner. When Craig had first moved in he couldn't work out how to use the heating and had decided to call on his neighbours for advice. I am not blocking out what happened. Craig's other neighbour. He searched her face for a reaction to his comment. mirroring her fleeting eye contact." she winced." He nodded eagerly." He inwardly cringed and thought he could kick himself -.it wasn't the same at all. how am I coping with Will not being around. about my day. She looked distracted. Calling on his other neighbour had been completely different. but it was a kindness he had needed being so far from home. but she was clearly hesitating around saying something. Now Will was gone. but if it helped" His face reddened and he shrugged. "A bit. fortunately because he would have hated for her to catch his appraisal of her. don't you?" Craig was caught by her candidness. Spend most of my day in the parks or at home with Billy." "Er. Just get sympathy. the weight from her maternity had been lost and she was her slender shapely self again. just trying to move on from it and I don't think I am going to do that if everyone's point of reference for me is Will. "I guess so" She smiled around perfect teeth. "I'm glad you didn't take offence. You?" 9 "The same. the sallow appearance from her grief had gone and the rich dark colour of her skin had returned. her dead boyfriend got in the way of him finding her attractive. that's nice of everyone. Although her long black hair looked tired and was roughly tied back from her face. hoping to move the conversation back to casual and shallow pleasantries.Chapter One "Okay" She wrinkled her petite nose and tilted her head from side to side as if considered the question.

none of them live in the area. Not gloating. you reprobate! It's Vicki. that's all. and it forced him to grin too.don't think you have missed out any sensitive area. said he's got some cash put aside for you." "Ok. you perve." A pause. yet he still couldn't bring himself to call home on a regular basis. "Er.Chapter One "That bad?" She winced. Er. "Taken any arty pictures?" Too busy earning. Thanks mum." He didn't make eye contact at all now as he found it uncomfortable on top of their new level of familiarity." Silence. Amused by her tightness with her 'H's' but irritated by the reminder of the things that depressed him. Bastard! "Now don't moan at 'im!" she continued with her jovial west-country brogue that he missed so much.. 10 "Sorry. Mum. "He's just worried for his younger brother. he had told Darren in confidence. didn't it? Er. If you can't afford to keep yerself. darlin'.." He could imagine the sharp twinkle in her eye and the slant of her smile." he lied. I mean your dad. you nearly have a full list of my shortcomings there. Bye. son. "Have you heard from any of your friends from school or university?" Sporadic emails and vague plans -. The machine clicked and clunked again.. you had one last nail to hammer home." He keyed his door open. "Hiya. how are you? Me and your dad were wondering how you were. I know you're off taking pictures of little girls." she tailed off as she hung up. "Fuck. And that's the last you will hear on the subject from me." . There was a heavy breath forced by her plumpness then she continued." My mistake. hope it improves for you. you can't afford an 'igh 'orse. You can count on me!" Craig sank into his armchair dejectedly with the heavy reminder of the lack of work. so don't get on your 'igh 'orse. Don't lose heart. "Yup. Call me back.but tidier. "Your brother tells us you 'ave 'ad a few problems with cash. He exhaled a deep breath as the reality of his life crushed down on him. so if you ever fancy a cuppa and giving me some adult company and conversation then feel free to give me a knock. 'ello this is mum. yep -. Just 'ow you left it -. there hasn't been much work to go round the past week. "Met a girl or anything?" Bingo! Cheers. but thanks for the reminder. And there's always a place at 'ome. Craig." Thanks for that pearl of wisdom Mum. They said goodbye to each other and he entered his flat and stabbed the play message button of his answer machine. "This did go beep. "I 'ope that bloody machine works. How's your job?" Dull and unfulfilling. Mum. Craig cursed. But." She plugged her keys in the door but left them there. I will. "Cheers. I just thought I should return your call. "I have seen that you're around a bit during the day.. "'Enry. "Love you. Sorry.

yet she hadn't been drinking.Chapter Two 11 Chapter Two Cat Thorn struggled out of her bed and ran her hands down her slim body. they were discouraged from chatting to customers. yet a brilliant green light washed over her with a brilliance that filtered through her lids. she didn't want to see what raced around her body yet pressed against every millimetre of her body as it held her and lifted her. creating a disorientating headiness. What was it Linda at work had said about her own breasts? More of an averted gaze."RACHEL!" Rachel Williams stood at the butcher's window and stared. Her memory of the night before was suddenly unlocked as some-thing came through the air at her. Her legs were weak at the knees and she was cold inside. She couldn't see anything but she knew it was there. The pressure from the air pressed against her body and held her in place while a throbbing pain pounded in her head as the lengthy wail seemed to crack her skull and press deep into her mind. Her terror took hold of her again as it came like a wind blasting through her flat from a great change in air pressure. She realised her tights were sagging and pulled at them as discretely as she could. The sweet musty smell of meat carried from the shop on the warm air. Checkout staff were told it affected the scan rate and delayed shoppers through the queues it made. or her belly button which was no longer a hole punched in a taut navel but an eye squinting out of a puffy socket. She preferred the independent retailers for her shopping. gripping the doorframes and then her sideboard for support. some of which boasted . her head feeling over-sized as her vision swam and swirled. You need that in a city the size of London and you relied upon the people you saw in your travels for company. Cat cupped her hands over her ears as a tortuous screech lanced through the current and into her head with the sound of a hundred infantile screams. She staggered over to the full-length dress mirror. She could make it to the railway arches in Camden market where the shop was. She shuffled to the lounge. It raked her hair into the air around her face like wild flames that forced her to clench her eyes closed. Part of her experience of last night seemed absent from her mind. the service was more personal and friendly. She steadied herself against what felt like a hangover. Sadly it wasn't only her tights that had subsidence. or her rear that had gotten dimpled and a little closer to the ground. as if the storm that had raged outside had torn into her flat. even as her feet began to tread the air as she was swept from the floor. as if her body was hollowed out. The storm had woken her up with its violence. even if they no longer stared ahead of her. She would have to call him and tell him that she wouldn't be able to make it in today. it was too clinical there -. She couldn't understand the feeling in her head and the sluggishness that clung to her limbs. like the loose skin at the top of her arms that her friends down Mecca also had and called 'bingo wings' due to the way it hung and wobbled when you thrust your hand in the air and shouted "House!" if you won. and had left her with a distracting pressure in her head that forced itself between her eyes. She dare not open her eyes. smoothing the creases out of her tee-shirt nightie. but then her creamy complexion had never had much colour. being a bit of mutton staring in at the fresh meat. At least her breasts were still full. The symptoms had come on too quick to be viral. but there was no way she felt fit enough. dresses and tops hung from each side of it like curtains at a window. She brushed her feathered auburn hair from her face and leaned close to the glass. She found that her gaze was no longer on the succulent sides of meat but her reflection.but her mother was dead. Her face had all the signs of disturbed sleep. Her instinct was to call for her mother -. She looked pale. She was due to cover the end of Ryan's shift at the clothes shop she worked at. You could have a good banter. Her eyes showed little sign of illness. She checked her watch. She laughed to herself. Her cry of pain joined the chorus as she called for the only person who claimed to care for her -. It never smelt like that at the meat counter in the large metal Sainsbury's she worked in on Camden Road. you got to know people.just like the service. Her surroundings seemed unanchored. It was three in the afternoon and she had been in bed since she had tried to rise that morning. Just as she had experienced in the night.

Jason and his mum regularly went round to Claire's for tea. Since his parents had separated. but she had been told they shimmered like grey opals. "Hello. Claire and Jason's mum were old school friends. Her eyes were cast in shadow in the reflection. they took it in turns to cook for each other some nights. She thanked him and ensured he had taken the money she had left him as he squeezed past her and out onto the street. sending his character through to the next level on the X-box.. Well. We better get a move on. She may be heading for the twilight years. She was greeted by Simon. when his mum burst into the room. "Got to dash. not entirely. She opened it. When she laughed and smiled her cheeks bunched up and the lines around her eyes and lips smoothed out a little. In one of these rare moments of self-examination like this she marvelled at how easily she could present a smile despite the pain that never seemed much further away than the background.I wonder where you're going to come into things. she closed the door behind her and sat her shopping down on the battered burgundy chaise longue nestled amongst the clutter of the gloomy hallway. Shame she couldn't claim they were laughter lines. Twenty-one was forty years ago now. . There was a faint drumming sound on the floor and a familiar black and white kitten trotted hesitantly up to her from behind her armchair and rubbed its cold wet nose on her legs. my little one! Looking for a home. by the way. She knew that place too well. It meowed gently at her from its small pink mouth and sniffed her shopping bag gingerly before nuzzling its head against the smooth plastic. there -. The stark image of the Royal Free hospital came to her mind. just age.I. No cat. "But. are you?" Jason Thompson lay on the floor with his control pad. But that was a long time ago and she wouldn't hear that voice again. Her face bloomed. She knelt down and ran her hands through its soft fur. They may be girls but he was bored. she decided. "Oh. She moved to the lounge and stood before the door thoughtfully. Puzzled. and what with the floorboards being up I shut your cat in the lounge." he called out the window as he started his engine. Reflected movement in the window attracted her and she saw a small fluffy black and white kitten. they didn't want a share of the bullying he received either. accentuated her expression." Rachel arrived home. Most of the friends he had didn't know how to be around him since his parents had split. when her hair had been long and a rich chest-nut brown. the father that only Rachel could see." He climbed into his white van marked "M. not dull greying and forced into curls and waves through a tired perm. see you in church Saturday night. "Aren't you a cutie?" her pleasure at the sight faltered when she looked from the reflection and saw that there was no cat sitting at her feet. I don't have a cat!" she called after him as he drove away. Foreman & Son" and sat next to the old man. "Hello there. She beamed down at the fragile animal. He hoped he would get a friend like that one day. even though it was an uncommon situation for a class mate to be in. a builder acquaintance who quickly apprised her of the jobs he had managed to do for her while she was out. "I've had the front door open to get bits from me van. She looked back at the window and found the cat's reflection had also gone.Chapter Two 12 about only being twenty-one days old. Claire and the twins are waiting. She hadn't let herself go. but at least she kept her eye on the fashion trends and tried to keep of with whatever her age decided she could get away with.. feeling the rapid beat of its little heart and its reverberating purr. The heavy bottle in her shopping bag glanced off her shin in a sharp accusation. "Come on. rattled her key in the lock and dragged herself and the shopping bags through the door of her flat." Jason leapt to his feet and shut the game down." Rachel frowned. honey. Simon's father.

so he happily joined in their games. He didn't think of girl's like that full stop. I've seen the way they look at him. Actually he did think of girls. I've got dibs on him for one of my girls." Jason could feel his face get hot. "That new haircut makes the world of difference! You know. I've seen their toys afterwards. They hadn't hit him or anything." Claire shut the door behind them. "Being a younger model and all!" "Six months younger!" Jenny smirked. "Don't you worry.Chapter Two 13 Jason let his mum take him by the hand as they went out the front door. He chose to avoid them. He was eleven -. Jason didn't have many friends -. He dashed to the stairs. They aren't playing tug of war with my kid's arms!" Their laughter trailed out of clear earshot as he headed into the girl's bedroom. David Renshaw and Mikey Kent. "Made him have a French crop. so he doesn't look so much like his dad. "Are you saying my son is ugly now?" His mum laughed. He bothered to get on with the girls more than other boys his age seemed to because Amy and Emily accepted him and he valued that. "Smart arse!" Jason rang Claire's doorbell and pushed past her as she answered it. just as his mum came skidding down the corridor in second place. so he understood the need for comfort. They argue about Barbie enough now. but he will have to choose between them. Jason scrunched his eyes up as she rubbed his short black hair. it left his innards feeling jumbled and cold. "She just can't keep up with you. my God. Mischief welled up within him and he used it as an excuse to shake loose from his mum's grip. "Well. lived in his block a few floors down from his home. but girls and the idea of "going out with them" was a bit of a mystery to him. nudging Jason to say that it wasn't so. Claire called after Jason. Grant was a looker. He didn't think of the girls like that. just taunted him about his dad leaving." She winked at Jenny. but it created uncomfortably deep feelings in him where he felt sorry for his mum and missed his dad. which was an added attraction. Claire was the only one who didn't avoid talking about his dad as if he was some dark secret. Emily and Amy both looked up from their play and greeted him enthusiastically. He knew his hand had replaced his dad's. They also had a different games console to his. two boys from school. calling after him. a habit she had gone back to since his dad had left them. giving her friend a mock slap. "Cheeky bitch!" "All counts." Claire joked. All through the storm the night before last he wanted to run into his mum's room. I see wedding bells in the future. It made things easier. who will he pick?" "Oh. "Race you!" He heard his mum's feet skuffle into action as she flew after him. already two flights down." The discomfort returned to Jason upon hearing his dad referred to negatively. "Yeah. . it was one of the reasons he didn't go out -. and anything else they could think of. he's gonna be a right looker when he gets older. They adore him!" She laughed and his face burned more fiercely. He could feel Claire watching him fondly as he headed off down the hall to the twins' bedroom. Claire cocked her head towards the twins' room. at least you know he came from good-looking stock. can she? I could give you a run for your money though. that's a point. "You've got longer legs!" he shouted back. even if it meant helping dress dolls and playing "girly" games. I just hope my girls take after me and not my Brian.as well as being frightened that he might bump into those that picked on him. Could be Jason next!" "Hope not. "Not fair! You have a head start on me!" He heard her giggling voice trail after him.four years older than Emily and Amy.none that he saw out of school. darlin'.

Chapter Two He sat with Amy on the floor and idly joined her in some drawing. "What was that for?" "You started it. He could hear Emily behind him on the other side of the room talking firmly to herself or her doll. more through surprise than pain. She looked about her room at the piles of teddies and dolls." "I'm not an idiot. "He's been helping me. Jason laughed as he frowned at Emily and shook his head dismissively. You kept calling my name!" She frowned moodily. He yelped as she thumped his back..." Amy defended. Emily's voice was suddenly harder and louder and in his ear." . "Stop it!". "Idiot!" 14 "I'm not.." she sulked. "Someone called me." she mumbled. you idiot.. "I didn't call you.

He only wanted to weaken and take his medication if it was necessary. . but he was glad the storm of a couple of nights ago had ended the heat wave. He brushed the dust from it and turned for the stairs. He rested on the step for ten minutes before attempting to retrieve his hat. "Alec? Is that you?" He moved towards the door. he still walked with a stiff back and a regimental even step. It took both his hands to steady himself on the banister. He flipped the lid of the spray. It tended to make people think the worst. scooping his hat up. He descended the last flight of steps from the lobby area to the locked basement door and crouched down steadily. he was a warm sensitive man with a deep love of his wife and cosy home and distant children.what else could it be! He laughed at himself as he went to open the door further. not just at any twinge.Chapter Three 15 Chapter Three Albert Taylor marched purposefully down the stairs. still unsure. He fumbled for his spray. for against his solemn dark look when working. It just didn't seem right. toppling down the middle of the stairwell with the black crepe trailing and flapping gently behind as it disappeared. Despite his sixty-three years and the exertion of descending six flights of stairs. It wasn't becoming of a mourner. He gave two measured sprays under his tongue and waited. The door ripped from his grip and slammed against the wall. Slowly the pain abated and his chest muscles loosened. Albert reached the bottom but had decided to abandon the regimented step and strolled casually down. He was startled by the sudden clunk-click noise of a chunky lock being turned. From the corner of his eye Albert saw the heavy metal door to the basement slowly opening. rationalising the situation with every step. the stairs had been hot and airless. or indeed a chief undertaker. and maintained a jovial outlook on life. At first he ignored it. He also disliked making pleasantries with people he knew or recognised. His hat came lose and fell from his head. He was scared. He thought of her warm plump body in his arms. scared that this attack could be the one that the doctor had warned him about. Slowly Albert's pace lost its rhythm. Albert's brief scream reached the fifth floor landing as his body was yanked into the basement and the door crashed shut behind him with a deafening echo that rolled like thunder. He could handle the descent and the climb. but the hairs on the nape of his neck tingled and stood despite his attempted resolve. He heard his hat hit the ground with a hollow slap that sounded out in an ever-decreasing echo. He didn't want to die alone. Who -. A blaze of green light burned from within the doorframe. His very job was to be discrete and create a solemn sense of mourning. the hat had landed flat on its top but didn't seem to be damaged. He wasn't going to go without his Iris being there to be held. He didn't like to take the lift when he was in his undertaker's uniform. He was a stubborn man. well tailored to his broad towering build. or whatever with whomever else he could encounter in the lift. Two years more and he could retire and be with her. Despite the fact he was on an early call and was unlikely to meet anyone. He gulped his discomfort down. He wouldn't let his condition beat him. The crepe wrap on his black top hat trailed softly and ghost-like in his wake. cursing as he realised his hat had missed the landing of the lobby on the ground level and gone straight down into the basement level. He saved his cheer and his slouching for when he was at home with his wife Iris. something he didn't feel he could do while talking about the weather with Mrs Jenson. the football results with Bob Chanter or listening to Rose McCarthy's gossiping. He turned to the large half-open metal door. he still descended the ten floors by foot in his heavy black suit. that someone had died in the building. The caretaker? he reasoned. A belt of pain cinched his chest sharply and forced the air from him.

It would be well harsh using some other photographer for a job two floors away from me. my only photo boy: you're my bitch.. Don't know why I bother calling you. I thought it was 'shit stirrer'. "That's it. She looked him up and down. my persistent look." She did a twirl to model her vintage jeans and faded rainbow-striped jumper. Professional. "Oooh. "You have wounded this poor journalist. She neglected to mention the sexy-arse-in-those-jeans look. . babe. "Hope you didn't make that effort for me. With Vicki their whole time working together had been a rollercoaster of playfulness." Vicki greeted him cheerily. making a show of eying her casual clothes. aware of her claustrophobia." "Ha-ha. but he had a good sense of humour and if he felt relaxed he could really get a good rapport going. She clutched her chest theatrically. It was these times that bemused him. well. "Tact is my middle name. yet as soon as he thought seriously about his prospects she suddenly seemed out of reach." he joked as they headed to the lift. Mock me. He hadn't had that much luck with the girls to be cocky with them. She quickly found her confidence again and nodded down to his side. 'Mr Professional'. excuse me. "You're a bit up yourself! I'm trying to look presentable for the interview." She stopped and beamed again. You're. I just decided to go for the tight jeans and slack jumper. and at times it was like there really could be potential. understand?" he explained. Just leave the persistent and suspicious-determined-reporter look here. "Yeah. "Yeah." She winked." Craig was drawn into her playfulness. "Hiya. As the lift slowed to a stop Vicki bobbed on her toes impatiently and jumped into the safety of the corridor before the doors had fully parted. He straightened his tie. "Is that semen you got in your hand?" She smirked. Craig watched Vicki stand close to the doors.. "That's funny. well. just don't you forget it!" The doors squealed shut behind them and the lift jerked into life shuddering up to the next floor. He smiled appreciatively. leaving it between messy and styled. "It's my respectful look.Chapter Four 16 Chapter Four Craig gathered his camera and mobile phone before glancing at his reflection in the hallway mirror and lazily tended his ruffled hair." she returned flatly. He knew he wasn't a stunner." She put a pen to her lower lip and beetled her brow as she acted out a mime of intense thought. I didn't realise you had feelings under that hard exterior. okay?" She held her hands up in mock surrender." Craig closed his door. flicking a stray clump of crimped blonde from her eye." He laughed." "Yeah. "And my suspicious-determined-reporter look: it suits all occasions. Freshly shaven and with an air of CK In2U aftershave around him he answered the door to Vicki." "I'm so sorry. my sympathetic look. "As if I would. lingering on his shirt and tie. Didn't she find him attractive at all? Craig had a realistic view of his looks. sexy boy. you didn't have much choice. but he knew what to wear and brushed up reasonably well. He found himself rewarded with a smile that broke across her fresh smooth face.

"Ha-ha. "Ooh." She let Craig and Vicki pass her and then gave a cursory look of suspicion into the corridor before shutting the door and joining them in the hall. "Yes it is. "Mrs Chambers. but they stared out from lids puffy from crying and a face gaunt and exhausted. Claire pulled her cardigan around her like a comfort blanket and weakly offered them a cup of tea as if it was a politeness that would be a struggle." he corrected. "Enough for a handful. Craig Digby. come in. He blushed at his own laddish posturing. This is my photographer.my balls are like plums as it is. "Small hands. I keep losing track of the days. it opened into the kitchen on the left with the lounge ahead of them. "Siemens." He winked playfully." Vicki greeted. "Please. "Hello." Vicki looked genuinely shocked. It was tidy but the curtains were still drawn on the large windows of the lounge leaving the room in a gloomy yellowish haze and giving the flat a cramped stifled atmosphere. he wasn't like that but he hoped she didn't know just how unlucky he had been. He wasn't into one night stands. . "Makes everything I hold look bigger." 17 Craig cocked his head near to Vicki's ear while they both stood facing the door. She asked them to call her Claire. You called us the other day?" Vicki's voice was pleasant but professional. Haven't had it for ages. I told you I was getting this phone." Years actually. "Anyway." She looked to him. Craig looked about the hallway." "Yeah? All this coming from the girl whose initials are VD.Chapter Four He looked down to the mobile phone she referred to and laughed." Before Craig could pursue their verbal foreplay the door was opened by a woman who appeared frail for her probable thirty-odd years." She jumped back in before he could answer. it's original. He arched an eyebrow tauntingly. so we are even. I'm every man's dream." "And I told you I was going to wind you up about it. The master bedroom was off the lounge. a face that was a mask that added years to her. waiting for it to be answered. Her pink cardigan sagged from her frame. "Bitch!" They reached the door to the Chambers' flat and Craig quickly pocketed his phone." She held them up and waved them in his frowning face. Her bobbed brown hair was untidy as if she had been asleep moments before their arrival. again. big boy!" She smirked. It's Vicki Day. To the right the hall travelled down further to the second bedroom and was capped with a bathroom door. her white tee-shirt appeared creased and lived in. A word that is an 'i' away from being a reproductive fluid is a dodgy product name. "Oh. It was hard to believe she was the same woman he had photographed at the press conference. She prodded the doorbell. like flesh that had been left behind from a severe loss of weight. They accepted and she shuffled off into the open kitchen like a frail old lady and started the tea-making ritual." the woman exclaimed as if it had slipped from her memory. "Want to test my theory?" "If that's a pass. Don't -. we have been talking on the phone. tucked into her jeans to neaten her appearance. It took him back to the oppressive days of the heat wave several weeks earlier. riding the yearning tension within him. Her eyes were young. "You'll get brain cancer putting it down there.

a couple of floors down. helping her to sterilise her next question. no. always had a joke for anyone who cared to listen. "So. When he wasn't working.." Her voice fractured into faltering tones forcing her to clear her throat of thick emotion. "I thought I recognised the face." There was a pleading desperation to her reply." Claire looked to Craig for some corroboration but Vicki blocked her prompt to maintain the focus on Claire.. and she had no reason to run away. "The police did a full search of all the flats." he offered courteously and professionally. checking the facts. or must have seen her. But now I am here and it's just us I had better tell you that I live in this building.. I mean there's just nothing to go on. She sucked air into her chest and faced Vicki again. "It's terrible. She disappeared. I hope you feel comfortable about that." The national press had lost interest. a few lines. Claire. he was great with kids. It's been. I guess I don't mind. everyone knows what's been going on anyway. "Albert Taylor. "No. When tea was made the three of them settled down into an atmosphere of pregnant expectation. "There's not much to go on. we have the facts of the story." She smiled . Vicki quickly cut off any chance of the awkward quiet becoming a stifling silence. he. I just need an update." Vicki looked at notes on her pad. I wanted to make another appeal for any information. The Camden Gazette. but she would not let go of a story that had the possibility of being national again. "I don't know. He. he always seemed such a friendly man. Everyone was very co-operative." Claire's eyes brimmed and she looked to the ceiling as if trying to tip the tears back into her head. "Yes. "Of course. mustn't they? Emily has to be somewhere.. "I was at the press conference the other week with all the other photographers and journalists. no one has come forward with seeing anything. despite her general malaise. "What are your feelings regarding the disappearance of Mr Taylor?" She glanced at her notes for his full name. I've always found everyone here to be good people. "It just happened! She was asleep in her bed and then she was gone.Chapter Four 18 Craig called out to her." "Do you feel that some people close by are hiding things?" "Someone must know something.. She had managed to get Claire's number of a source she had in the local police. They were waiting for a conclusion. and had called vowing to keep her story in the papers. was Claire's only voice. through Vicki. You called us the other day. didn't get any question time as she was only with a local rag." She stared intently at Vicki as if measuring her for a moment. "Do you think it could be someone in the building?" she rerouted after a little time. "It just feels so useless.. Didn't want people to forget." "Do you feel the police haven't done enough?" Vicki pushed." She leapt in with her emphatic answer. a quote or two to go with it: How do you feel now that two weeks has passed? And with the police making no progress?" Craig watched uncomfortably as Claire sighed under the weight of Vicki's journalistic angle that reinforced the pain and hopelessness of the situation. Claire in an armchair and Vicki and Craig on the three-seater sofa. "Two weeks since little Emily went missing?" Claire nodded. Someone knows where she is. Vicki had been just another reporter at the conference." she called back meekly from round the corner in the kitchen.

no attempt at comforting her. her shoulders dropping and she sagged in her chair as if the thought defeated her. That's what's worse than suspecting all your neighbours. "That's what I hate about this. 19 Craig watched Vicki study her pad. hoping his incredulity didn't sound like disbelief. "It scares me.. "Nothing." Craig knew as well as Vicki did that her statement was a lie. No fingerprints or anything. her eyes reddening as tears brimmed. done something. "Sorry. as this. He jumped up and gave Claire the box of tissues from the glass coffee table and dashed back to Vicki's side. then people always think the worst. Vicki gave Craig a firm stare to catch his attention and then pointedly directed her eyes to his camera on his lap.." Claire nodded and Craig slid to his knees and prepared his camera. "It's just that this has changed everything for us. "How is your husband taking it?" .. "Do you feel that people may suspect you or your husband?" Vicki asked without flinching. Claire looked over to a cluster of photographs of the twins on the opposite wall..Chapter Four but her resolve broke apart around her last words and their possible naïve irony. Claire's resolve hadn't broken once and Vicki looked impressed by the conviction of her last answer. Even those that do know you.. he didn't see the need to revisit that.. that some people that don't know me -. When -. It had already been reported that Claire and her husband had been questioned concerning the disappearance as police procedure..or Brian." Claire apologised for her breakdown." She grimaced at the foul taste the last part of her sentence left." Craig tried to read some indication of whether Vicki believed her. "But. Vicki rolled her eyes at his sensibilities but her look held an edge of genuine frustration with him.Keeps the story in people's minds." "You are lucky you have a lot of support from the community. Any hunch or feeling has to be looked into. She held her hand up to her mouth to hide her quivering lips.. Knowing. DNA. You have to start looking at all your friends and your neighbours as suspects. ever hurt them." "What do you say to people who suspect you?" "Anyone that matters knows me and Brian give both our girls all the love we can and we could never.the police said don't neglect anyone from your thoughts.. would think that we could have. Vicki had her own agenda. Vicki nodded a prompt for Craig to prepare his camera before addressing Claire. "Would it be okay to take a few photographs of you while we talk? Keeping your face in the paper usually stirs up more support -. Craig looked at her in wide-eyed disbelief and shook his head sternly in distaste.." She began to cry openly.. Craig sensed Claire look to him for an ally but he missed his chance to support her as he was too preoccupied with trying to catch Vicki's eye with a disapproving look. and that while the community did offer its sympathy and outrage it also held cynicism and suspicion. "Was there really no evidence left at the scene?" Craig found himself asking. "How could we?" Her eyes glazed.." Craig was pleased Vicki had offered Claire the chance for a quote in her defence. "It's destroying us. Knowing they suspect you.. The -..when there is as little evidence. No... We know a lot of people on the estate and it's so hard." Claire caved in physically.

"How about Emily's sister?" "Amy hasn't spoken since that night." Vicki allowed for a measured silence then spoke again. Craig snatched the image onto his camera in a cold flash of white light. I think. 'Miss Objectivity'.. the more it feels like she isn't coming home. Doctors have tried to get her to talk. "I will get out at your floor and walk down. she has just shut herself down.." Craig cocked his head to one side with a disdainful expression.." "Don't give up hope." She stared vacantly at the floor. I don't think she knows how to cope with it. Now I'm scared -. deflated. "That wasn't what I meant. He relaxed into a slouch. She got a warning look from Craig as he set up a shot. "Okay.. I mean?" Vicki asked cautiously. They have lost their identity. So.. "I only have memories and photos and her empty bed. feeling physically drained by the meeting. what do you think?" .that was awful. I wish men could talk about things more. and they said their goodbyes to Claire on the doorstep leaving her to return to her twilight den.Chapter Four 20 "Brian has been wonderful." Craig sighed." He restrained the urge to defend his ambitions and redirected his bile into sarcasm. The more I see of Amy the less I see Emily. caught in her memories. The longer Emily isn't here. "I never thought people disappeared. Keep her at school. Pays the bills though. "Do you fear for her? Amy. They would share their toys too. "It's killing him." Vicki punched the button for Craig's floor. It might bring her out." Claire wiped a tear from her face.. She just won't. doesn't it?" She aimed a bitter accusatory look at Vicki and a broad smile broke across her face that quivered in tormented anguish as she accepted her own rhetorical answer. It sounds like I've given up hope. For my sake more than anything." Claire smiled back at Brian. but it was hardly going to be a story I could get my teeth into. "Well -. "What do you mean?" Claire frowned. "I'm just so scared that Emily isn't coming back. He cries when he thinks I can't see or when he thinks I'm asleep. forcing dark shadows into the room. I meant her story was terrible. "You have too much emotion to be a journalist. I'm sorry. "Oh. They said to keep her to a routine." Craig offered desperately in the cavernous cold vacuum of Vicki's silence. Tragedy isn't there to serve your career. as if they were always just Amy's. As if I only ever had the one. I hate being in lifts on my own. I never thought that could happen. "Do you worry that Amy may be in danger?" The camera flashed. They say its shock.Yes. "Emily just vanished. as if there was always just Amy." Craig's camera ignited the air and the light burned everything briefly away in a brilliant white void." Vicki reminded him as she poked the button that would summon the lift. I forgot I was talking to the ice queen. When I put Amy's clothes away I see Emily's identical things as if they were just Amy's." he summarised as they boarded the lift. "Yup. I'm scared it could happen again. but he still keeps it together.. Vicki explained she would rush the story through for her.

Chapter Four The lift slowed and stopped and the doors opened on to Craig's floor, he let Vicki out first. "She did it."


"The mother? I meant do you think the police will find some leads or whether you think the little girl will be found. After what we just sat through you think the mother did it?" "You hear about it all the time: happy families Kids are a pain -- the mum in the bedroom with a pillow Twin sees it. It explains the vow of silence the other kid has taken." Craig fixed her in wide-eyed disbelief. "You can say that after seeing her grief?" He held his hands up in surrender to her cynicism. "I am gonna let you go now. I'll get the pics to you as soon as I can. Go spread your sunshine somewhere else." "You're just too innocent. Don't worry." She smiled disarmingly. "It's a sweet thing."

Chapter Five


Chapter Five
Jason stood in Claire's kitchen as his mum slid a covered plate of fish fingers and chips and a casserole dish onto the worktop. He felt afraid to move, like a time when he was in a china shop and he had been afraid that any movement he might make would result in an accident, but in this instance he was afraid of being noticed. It was difficult being around Claire since Emily had gone. He didn't know how to act around her. "Here you go, Claire; something for you and Brian to dip into -- plus a tea for Amy." "Thanks. It means a lot to me." "It's only a casserole," Jenny joked weakly. Claire walked into the kitchen and squeezed Jason's shoulder affectionately as she passed. She had a strange smile on her face, as if she didn't know how to use her face for that anymore. Claire leaned against Jenny in a lingering hug and he suddenly remembered being in a school play and not knowing his lines or where he should be standing. Claire's flat seemed different now, as if Emily not being there had changed the flat itself. It had always been like a second home; the furniture and pictures were familiar and held memories, but the place seemed alien and foreign now. Somehow little things like the grain on the doors or the pattern of the carpet seemed new, as if he was seeing them for the first time although they were the same doors he had hidden behind and it was the same floor he had rolled about on in play. It reminded him of how it his own home had felt after his dad had left. Jason realised that it was the missing person and the feelings that he had about them that changed the place. The two places where he could get away from his fears of school and forget about the kids that picked on him and have fun had been ruined. His world was getting smaller. The embrace of the adults was disturbed as Amy stopped her playing in the lounge and dashed into her bedroom. Jason watched his mum give Claire a questioning look. "I don't know why she keeps doing that. She never seems to settle. She runs from one room to the next a couple of times a day. More frequently lately though." Jenny rubbed Claire's arms comfortingly. "Jason, do you think you could stop for a bit, play with Amy? Keep her company. Could be what she needs." Claire's voice sounded strained -- desperate. He nodded, grateful for a chance to escape from the grief that weighted the air between the two adults. His mum explained she would go home and he could come down whenever he wanted tea. He headed quickly to Amy's room before his mum could join Claire in crying. He didn't know what to say or do when his mum cried, it left him feeling powerless. She shouldn't be allowed to cry in front of him, and his insides twisted as soon as he had thought it, feeling guilty for needing her to be strong for him. He stood in the doorway to Amy's room and found her sitting cross-legged on Emily's bed with her back to him as she coloured in a picture. Emily's absence left a gaping hole in the room, and it seemed wrong to him that Amy had been left behind to play and sleep in what was now a crime scene, although Jason was unsure of what crime had been committed. It wasn't talked about in front of him -- and on some level that he would never admit to anyone, he was glad of the protection. But, it was still her room. What must Amy be feeling? He could hear his mum and Claire crying openly together as they parted on the doorstep. It made him think of all those nights when his parents had argued. Even now when he was trying to

Chapter Five


sleep at night he could hear his mum sobbing through the thin walls. Lately Jason didn't know if it was because she missed his dad or because of what had happened to Emily. His mind strayed into a place in his imagination that he avoided going, where he imagined what life would be like without his mum: his dad hadn't been back or called since he had left; they didn't even know where he was now. Jason's granddad was old and had cancer and was in and out of hospital, and every time he was admitted his mum told Jason how long happy and full a life his granddad had had, but his life now was painful and unhappy -- preparing Jason for when he didn't come back from hospital. So Jason knew that if something happened to his mum, he would be alone. Amy and her mum and dad must be realising something that Jason had lived with for months; that family and the love and protection it gave was fragile and could be broken at any time. He thought it odd how something missing could change things so drastically, like when he was younger and had seen the fairground with its bright attractive colours, madcap clowns and entertainers and its rushing and soaring rides. He had begged his dad to take him, and that night he had. The sun had gone down. The lights of the fair flashed and raced causing the shadows and the dark (which he had been frightened of back then) to leap out at him. The dark made the clowns look sinister with their blood red mouths, and it hid the ground from view making the high rides seem higher and more frightening than he could cope with. Now he was older, but he had other fears. There were so many bad things in the world, bullies, hoodies, war, perverts, murderers, bombs, fighting. They had always been there, at school, in the street as he walked with his mum, on the TV in the background while he did his homework or played, but since his dad and Emily had gone they all seemed so much more real and frightening. He took advantage of Amy being oblivious to him and tried to be the Jason he had always been with her. She didn't need someone else talking slowly and clearly to her like she was deaf, as adults had seemed to do with him about his dad. Jason stepped into the room and soft-footed over to the bed and ventured a natural, "Hello." Amy looked up and gave him a half-smile, her face puffy and flushed, then returned to her drawing. Seeing she had been crying, and having heard his mum and Claire's grief in the other room, stirred something overwhelmingly sad within him. All the people he loved were hurting and he couldn't think of a word or a gesture that could make them happy. He was powerless and wanted to crawl away and get lost in games, but he knew he couldn't escape the worries in his head and the heaviness in his chest. He sat beside Amy on the bed and put his arm round her. She was shaking a little. She snuggled into him, resting her head under his neck while she scribbled on a dog-eared sheet of paper. Jason's eyes grew hot and moist and he swallowed against the emotions he felt for his mum, Amy, Claire and missing Emily -- even for his dad. Hoping Amy didn't sense his weakening. "What you drawing?" Jason asked meekly, knowing she wouldn't reply, but just needing something to say to break the quiet. She carried on with her idle work. Jason picked up some other scattered drawings and leafed through them. They were all of her room and her toys, but one of them featured a little girl. That's when Amy's reality hit Jason, without her having to speak. Whenever the girls put themselves in pictures, it was always both of them. This crayon girl was alone. He squeezed her tight. "You like the green and yellow crayons, don't ya?" he remarked at the colours that swirled within most of the pictures. Behind the girl in the picture was a green scribble with yellow splodges that had some symmetry within the spirals and swirls that threatened to swamp her. Somehow there was something in that picture that teased the hairs on the nape of his neck. She scribed two words next to it. Two words that labelled the thing

Chapter Five that was in her picture, and she looked up at him, not with tears in her eyes, but fear.


Jason jolted when Claire's voice broke the moment as she called for him to collect some drinks for them from the kitchen. He slipped from the bed to collect them and tried to understand what Amy had shown him in her picture and what it meant. He hesitated in the doorway and turned back to her. Amy had stopped her drawing now and was sitting bolt upright looking warily around her with awkward jerks of her head like a dog that had heard a sound only it could tune into. Claire called him again before he had a chance to ask Amy what was wrong. Reluctantly he left Amy to collect their refreshments from her mum. Claire passed him two large glasses of cola with lively frothing heads. She slipped a chocolate bar into the gaping pocket of his combat trousers. "Don't tell your mum." She winked at him in an impression of her former self. A door slammed shut with a terrible bang. Claire pushed past him and ran towards Amy's room. Jason was so startled by the noise, the rough treatment and Claire's fearful shouts for Amy that he didn't have to time to think or put down his cola, but followed as fast as he could without slopping his drink all over the floor. He rounded the corner and found Claire standing at Amy's closed door. The handle jumped up and down and urgent little thumps sound from inside the room. Claire grabbed the handle and plunged it down and leaned into the door. It opened a few millimetres, meeting strong resistance. A soft green light spilled out from the narrow crack before the door was sharply forced closed. Claire jumped back from the door in confused surprise and Jason staggered away a few shuffled paces in a defensive instinct. Amy wasn't strong enough to force the door shut against Claire, and by the sounds of it Amy wanted out just much as Claire wanted in. His limbs felt like rubber and he crossed his legs against an urgent tingling in his bladder. The green light frightened him. Claire promptly regained a strong hold on the handle with one hand and spread another against the door, then leapt at it, throwing all her weight against the wood. The door cracked open under her exertion and Amy escaped through it. She tangled into her mum's legs, clambering around her and frantically pulling her away. Claire instantly dropped into a crouch and swept Amy into her arms. Jason watched the door swinging smoothly and idly open on its hinges in the wake of being released from Claire's efforts, now that Amy had escaped it didn't seem stubborn at all. The green light was gone. On the twelfth floor Craig hesitated outside Kelly Mason's front door for a moment then knocked and waited, trying to ignore a dull anxiety that squirmed uncomfortably in his stomach and tickled his throat. Craig had sat at home for an hour with Vicki's judgement of him burning in his chest and festering in his thoughts. He disagreed with her; he could make an objective journalist. The things that Claire had said were fact, and the content of what she said would conjure emotion in most people. He was sure that as cynical as Vicki was, even she was only half-joking about the mother killing her daughter, and despite Vicki's dislike of children, the human side of this story couldn't be lost on her personally. He reminded himself that he had given up trying to work out Vicki's mind a few weeks after they had met. Craig knew he could handle interviews better, but while he was a photographer he wouldn't get the opportunity, he wasn't qualified to approach any paper but his local rag, and Vicki's boss, the editor of The Camden Gazette, wanted to keep him where he was; easier to employ a new writer rather than possibly lose a photographer. The Hampstead and Highgate News had shown little interest beyond their regular writers and contributions from established freelancers.

Chapter Five


After returning to his flat Craig had looked about his home knowing that two floors above him in another flat, a family was falling apart and a mother was losing her heart and mind. This story was too close to home for him to pass up. He had always enjoyed writing, he had poured over short stories as a kid, never really finishing anything, and even when his love of photography had taken over his writing had been knocking around in the background. He accepted he was a photographer now, but if he was to get into writing, he reasoned he had to do something sometime. If writing news was part of that then with something happening on his doorstep he had just the opportunity and the unique perspective to understand how this hit those around him. He needed an outlet for his creativity -- he certainly wasn't getting from his photography. Kelly Mason was a local policewoman. He didn't know her, but he had seen her in the lift and collecting her post on the ground floor. He had found her flat number easily enough from her mailbox in the lobby. Perhaps she had a perspective, possibly some thoughts of her own from a resident's point of view. She might even be involved in the case. Now he stood at her door, unsure and wondering how far his charm would get him. The door opened suddenly and Craig gave the woman that stood there an obvious second look. The Kelly he knew looked dowdy, plain, her uniform being her defining feature. The woman in the doorway was a youthful woman looking to be on the verge of thirty with dark amber eyes and faint freckles dusting her flushed cheeks, while her brunette hair, normally in an efficient tight bun behind her hat, now fell about her face in long chocolate waves. She usually seemed shapeless, almost devoid of sex under her layers of uniform and the baggy luminous yellow jacket, but now in black trousers and a tight roll-neck jumper, slack at her neck, she had a figure. Kelly frowned uncertainly at him as if she never had visitors, and now she did her neck and cheeks burned in a creeping red blush. "I think you have the wrong flat," she said. "Kelly?" He stared at her, almost seeking reassurance that it was really the plain woman he had seen before. "Sorry -- let me explain... I'm a journalist..." "Haven't I seen you about before?" she said, trying to place him. "The photographer for the Gazette?" "Yeah," Craig admitted, surprised she knew him. "I do some work for the Gazette when I get it. I'm trying to get into the writing side." He shook his head in frustration with himself; she didn't need his life story. "You don't know me. I live in this block. Craig Digby" "I thought that was it. I have seen you coming and going." He held his hands up in surrender and cut in. "Yeah, don't worry. You haven't arrested me before." She laughed pleasantly. "What brings you to me?" He dared himself to ask what he wanted. "It's just that I've heard a lot about the Chambers case. I've interviewed the mother and was wondering if you had any dealings in the case, and if you could spare me a few minutes for some questions yourself?" Kelly looked strangely dejected and apologetic. "I'm sorry, Mr Digby," she said with authority. "I am a liaison for the Chambers and the station as I am local, but I can't talk to you about any details. It's more than my job's worth -- and I don't think it's right. The family needs time and space to themselves." "I'm not asking for anything confidential. Just an interview on the police aspect, that's all," he tried hopefully. A shrill pinging from within her flat interrupted their conversation; Kelly briefly cast a distracted look over her shoulder, and relaxed her tone. "That's my dinner I don't think there's much I can actually tell you that's

Chapter Five not already been in the papers."


"Well, how about another time?" he persisted. "From the perspective of a person living in the block with the duties you have at the station and what it's like with this on your doorstep? Nothing about the case specifically, and I wouldn't do anything with it until after you've read through whatever I have written." She seemed to be in pained thought for a moment and looked at him awkwardly, her decision apparently made more difficult by the urgent pings of her waiting microwave meal. "Oh, okay. But some other time -- I have a frozen curry calling me!" She smiled humbly and closed the door on him without saying goodbye.

Chapter Six


Chapter Six
Rachel rested on her recliner within the cosy half-light of her lounge and used her remote control to flick through the television channels. She munched on cheese and crackers with a glass of sherry at her side while she searched for something to watch. The kitten perched on her leg, leaning over to the table and lapped from a glass of water. The cold light from the television flickered and broke into the corners of the room where the standard lamp didn't reach. She thought of her phone, and didn't know why. She wondered at the randomness of the thought until it rang abruptly. Startled, she dropped part of her cracker on to her chest. Rachel pulled the kitten close to her so she didn't tip it from her lap as she reached for the handset. The kitten crawled up her and began picking at the cracker from under her chin, oblivious to the difficulty Rachel had in guiding the phone cable around the animal so she could get the phone to her ear. "Hello?" she said. Before the person could speak she was distracted by the sound of ruffled paper from beside her chair, and strained over the arm of the chair to investigate. A pile of newspapers that had been stacked there had tumbled onto their side and she was greeted with the headline that had been within the middle of the pile: "CHILD MISSING FROM BED." "Hello, you don't know me but my name is Claire Chambers..." the voice on the phone started. Rachel pulled the paper up on to her lap and scanned the page, seeing the woman's name in print before her. "The little girl's mother?" There was a hesitation as Claire adjusted to her name being recognised. "Yes... That's right." "I'm so very sorry to read about all that's happened." Rachel winced at the banality of her words. She could hear Claire swallow. "The spiritualist church you attend recommended I talk with you. No one has come forward with anything, no one saw anything. It's been nearly three weeks. I don't know what made me call. It's just we are so desperate. I don't know what you can do, or even what you do. We were... I was just wondering..." Rachel looked about her room, squinting briefly into the gloom at the television as her programme came back on. She knew what Claire wanted to know. "Don't worry, dear. I could come and see you tomorrow if you like. However, you must understand in this circumstance I won't undertake any attempt at contact and I don't give certainties. I can come and see what I can feel, see if I can offer any other insight around what has happened. It won't help you with the police though, as I am sure you know; all I can give you is a little faith and hope. If that's enough for you then I will gladly visit you." Claire gushed gratefully and began to arrange a time to go and see her the next day. Rachel turned the folded paper over to see the bottom of the front page and the cat licked her cheek for more crumbs. Rachel gave a sad smile at the school picture of the happy-looking girl presented on the page. Although she couldn't see it in the thick shadows of the room, Rachel's thoughts focussed on the framed birth certificate on the mantelpiece and the darkness closed in around her in a great swell at the thought of the aged piece of paper. Rachel's eyes travelled up the body of the east tower that grew from the ground before her. Looking at the top drained her sense of balance and a brief glance to the summit was all she could manage without her vision swimming. The sun blazed from behind the building, melting the rigid horizon of the roof and casting the face

Chapter Six


of the building into shadow. She looked back down sharply and blinked away the disorientation before taking the steps up to the main door above the abandoned arcade of shops at the tower's base. Rachel had been to this building once before, but she hadn't got past the front door that day. She had been turned away by a disconnected voice over the intercom -- told not to come back. The rejection was still a fresh knife wound. All Rachel had wanted to do was tell her that she was here for her if she had need of her, but she had wanted nothing from Rachel. She slipped her bifocals on and studied the entry system closely before she typed in the flat number for Claire Chambers and introduced herself to the crackling voice that responded. The voice cut out and the door buzzed, Rachel pushed but it refused to open. She pressed for Claire's flat, "Sorry, me and technology, I can't get it to open." The intercom gave a muffled reply, apologising for the problem. "You just wait there and I'll come and get you, you'll never find the flat anyway. I'll be down in a second." Rachel looked about her. The thick shadow of the building reached across the small grassy area surrounding the flats and across the road, blanketing the houses beyond in a dark shroud. She turned back to the glass of the door and was startled by a set of eyes staring back at her. Greying eyes, tinged with yellow, but soft and watery like melting ice. The skin around them hung pink and sagging. The man's hair was thick with grease and scruffily side-parted; his beard was short and greying, the bristly curls matted with saliva slug-trails glistening around withered lips that grimaced around yellow and black teeth. His breath clouded the glass between them; breath she was sure would be foul and made her glad of the barrier. His long coat hung from multiple layers of clothing, a heavy burden in spite of the summer warmth that made him look bigger than he probably was. Rachel smiled at him as gently and as genuinely as she could and pointed to the handle. "Could you let me in?" she mouthed hopefully. He stared back at her. Not even following the direction of her pointing finger. "Go away..." he barked, bowing his head forward and glaring up at her with menace in his eyes. She half-expected him to growl and bare his teeth like a wild dog. His eyes were rich with a hatred she didn't understand. Rachel was routed by his threatening glare and retreated a few steps. She was relieved when a young man peered over the older man's shoulder, frowned and appeared to start questioning his behaviour. The old man didn't flinch from his posturing stand-off. Feeling her confidence return with the arrival of the lad she stepped back towards the glass and motioned to him that she was trying to get in. He said something with humour to the old man, and when that failed to move him he leaned closer to the glass and called through it; "Have you been buzzed in?" "Yes, Claire Chambers buzzed me in but it didn't work. She's coming down now." Her mention of the Chambers seemed to spur him on in getting rid of the glaring old man. He approached the situation with humour and when that failed he resorted to a firmness of face and probably tone which he looked uncomfortable with. Finally the old man stepped away but his eyes remained on Rachel. She avoided them and scanned the rows of letterboxes in the lobby, knowing that Catherine's would be one of them. Perhaps she could leave a note? No, she had written letters before to Cat and had yet to receive a reply. The young man rolled his eyes at her and pressed the buzzer. Rachel stepped back up and pushed at it but it remained firm and rattled in its place. It refused to budge even when the young man pulled it from inside. He dug deep into his trouser pocket and pulled out his keys to the building, he signalled to the letterbox and

with different explanations. Beyond her ability to talk to the dead and see the past she had developed a keen psychological insight from spending so much time with people in pain. Rachel wiped her feet on the mat as Claire shut the door behind them. but she lived in a different world. It wasn't a psychology you might find in a text book. stepping aside for her to enter. The lift stopped and her thoughts. The young man caught her arm. yet there weren't any individual pictures. She had examined it further while she had chatted with the young man that had come to her aide. and still shaken from the incident at the door Rachel also needed to believe it was a safe place to be. the old man. In the lift Rachel struggled to compose herself and focus on the small talk that Claire Chambers was making with her. After a short while of talking with someone she could imagine things from their perspective and quickly spot inconsistencies in what they said or how they acted." What did he mean? How could he know about her abilities? She could also sense something. or to ease her own discomfort with the stereotype. it reminded her of the mosaics at Tottenham Court Road Underground Station. When she walked to the lift with Claire she had tried to take in the mosaic as a whole. Rachel smiled appreciatively and stepped in. were lost to concentrate more on Claire as they walked to her flat. keen observation and listening and a first hand understanding of grief. "There you go. "Your type aren't welcome here. It was a crude gaudy display of rich colours. She tried several keys until she found the right one and unlocked the door and the man yanked it open for her. startling her. Sparks flew from the metal speaker grille in an angry flare and Rachel cowered away and stumbled against the doorframe. about tower blocks in general. like the ghostly image within the mosaic. Harry as she now knew he was called had retreated but hissed a final warning in her face. selling her the community and the views. just patterns of colour that weaved in and out.Chapter Six 29 poked them through for Rachel. Claire was talking about the building. The intercom rasped viciously and a growl of angry static grated harshly on her ears. She would sow her conversation with musings and wonderings from her perspective. supported her into the building and sheltered her from any other possible sparks. She thanked him and stared back at the smoking intercom that increased her sense of being unwelcome. some presence in the air. Rachel could see that Claire was desperate to believe in the community spirit of the building. inviting the other person to own the thoughts as their own." he announced. and now her "gift" had brought her here. It struck Rachel as rehearsed. something she did with new guests to make them feel at ease. To anyone else it might be dismissed as coincidence. giving examples of how different The Heights were to the stereotypes of high-rise flats. She had seen something in the mosaic. As her foot crossed the threshold she thought how odd it was that she had come here a year ago only to be turned away. but her pained grin and glistening eyes that accompanied her description of the friendly community within the tower told a different story. Cat had so much resentment for her. Areas of the mosaic where the colours deviated by subtle degrees creating a discrete shape. However. when Claire had emerged from the lift. If the dread of that hadn't been enough to unsettle her. She was also distracted by the large mosaic panel that took up almost an entire wall of the lobby. it was a mix of the otherworld intuition. Rachel didn't normally like colluding with the games people play. to see the shape for what it was but lost the image within the twists and angles of the pattern. and as much as Rachel wanted a reunion she didn't want it to happen in front of Claire. "Would you like a cup of tea?" . to encourage them to challenge themselves. Rachel didn't need a text book to understand those things. but the emotions the building conjured within her and the shock of her encounter at the main door made it impossible to concentrate. Catherine had demanded that Rachel stay away from her and the building. pain and hopelessness. to be honest with themselves.

" Rachel rested her cup on its saucer. Brian was the first to speak.Chapter Six "Lovely! Milk. not fat but stocky. "I do believe in spirits and that there is an after-life if you want to call it that. Thank you. It's very good of you to support your wife in . He looked her over warily. but his eyes looked switched off. Rachel ignored him momentarily and took a sip of her tea. I won't be chanting and lighting incense and you will be quite pleased that I left my broomstick at home." She let his hand go and looked about her. The flat was bright and airy and very clean. She was unsure if she was meant to feel intimidated. Rachel sat in the armchair opposite the sofa. He offered a smile from a fresh smooth face. "It's a lovely home you both have. "I understand entirely. Rachel took the cup and saucer and stirred the drink before resting the spoon gently at the side. He stood to his full height. that sometimes. A man's voice greeted Rachel from the lounge. a manual worker. and some of us are fortunate enough to be able to communicate with these essences. these spirits. To be quite frank I don't believe in mumbo-jumbo. He was a big man." Claire's tone berated Brian for not offering earlier. Claire entered with a tray of tea and biscuits." Claire walked over to the kitchen." Brian took Claire's hand in his." She looked to Brian as he sat down. three sugars. and took her hand. shooting her husband a disapproving look. "Please. and these niceties was just politeness. Nor do I." "I didn't mean to be rude." She found the man sitting on a sofa leaning forward on his knees so he could see her more clearly round the doorway. So.although I can have a temper on me." she puffed and smiled disarmingly. not mine." Claire shot him a killing look. he looked to be a youthful thirty-something." She navigated the coffee table and extended her hand. Rachel. almost too clean. It is just a view that physical death isn't the end. They were the eyes of an old man hardened to everything the world could throw at him and judging by his solid posture and his strained body language he had a hardened attitude towards her." She finished her matter-of-fact statement with a nod to Claire. 30 "I need all the energy rushes I can get. Claire settled next to Brian and served the drinks. judging by the heavy pads she had felt on his hand. "I am glad you don't believe in mumbo-jumbo. which was several inches over Rachel's. "Call me Brian. take a seat. And we use that ability to help those left behind. "Lovely tea. for whatever reason or science behind it an aspect of us remains after the body dies. it's just that it's been a hard time for us." She smiled. "I don't want anything that is going to make life harder for us. "You must be Mr Chambers. I'm not a witch -. He didn't say anything. Rachel turned on her heels as she heard the welcome interruption of rattling crockery. "Sweet tooth. "This was Claire's idea.

" She watched them both wilt guiltily. I got Amy out and she was terrified. "I have to say one thing." Claire looked at Rachel for a reaction. I am here to help you find some kind of lead for the ongoing investigation. but she wouldn't have been able to stop me opening it. That's the moment I heard one of the girls scream and I found Emily had gone. and you would doubt what I say until there was tangible earth-bound evidence. Disclosure either way would ultimately offer you little comfort. I'm sure there was light in here -. It was green. but turned hesitantly to Rachel and chewed at her bottom lip. flinging themselves around the tank. it was dark at that end of the hall. The night Emily went missing they all went crazy. I imagine non-believers would judge me as being cruel in taking away your hope of her being alive.not from the light bulb." Rachel urged as the hairs on her neck tingled. Claire nudged the door to the bedroom and it drifted off its catch and opened effortlessly without the need for the handle to be turned. Afterwards. I don't ask for any money for what I do. and it was clear that even in that limited audience it created conflict. Claire was putting voice to something she had only dared to share with her husband. his head in his hands. Claire stood up and led the way to the bedroom while Brian remained on the sofa. giving herself time to absorb this new information. "We are nine floors up. Brian. as if uncovered in some crime. life in the flats and did a complete circle back to how they still had no leads towards finding little Emily. After the weight of the expectations had lifted. With no window to provide natural light. me and Brian had settled for the evening." Rachel smiled weakly. "If I disclosed that I could contact her.. Only Brian. I could hear the fish hitting the glass. We used to have fish in our tank in the lounge. Brian . She knew now was the time to lay her cards on the table. "It was as if Amy had been holding it shut." Brian interrupted pleadingly." "Don't. The fluorescent light was flickering too. The conversation ran out as the emotions took hold of Claire and Brian." she whispered conspiratorially." Rachel watched Brian nod and smile and his frame sank slightly as he disarmed himself. I'm not a charlatan though. announcing his presence in the hall. If I found that I couldn't contact her. Rachel asked where Emily was last known to be before she went missing. Claire. Some funny things have happened lately. "The front door was locked. What should she be terrified of? "There is something else we hadn't told the police." Rachel then listened to Claire explain how Amy had been stuck in her room. To escape the awkwardness. the three chatted for a quarter of an hour about Rachel's beliefs. then to the children's room before returning to Claire. floating on the surface. when the police had gone and we were alone again. Claire put her hand on the door handle." Rachel looked from Claire to Brian who couldn't hold her gaze. However. that was when I noticed The fish. Death sat uncomfortably on her shoulder as she prepared to elaborate. and how the Chambers' prayed that she was alive. I would appreciate it if you didn't ask me to try and contact Emily. "There's something I haven't told anyone. "Go on. She settled her cup on its saucer and held it still on her lap as she approached a difficult subject.Chapter Six 31 something that you don't really believe in. They were all dead. flitting erratically. especially at a time as painful as this. the twins. "The night Emily went missing.. I also suspect that any scepticism you have about my abilities would be reinforced by your need to believe that she is alive. All I ask is for you to suspend any criticism and preconceptions for just a while and believe for just a moment. Rachel stood with Claire before the children's bedroom door. and he says it's silly. you might take what could simply be a limitation of my ability as reinforcement of your hope of her being alive.

"You believe Emily just vanished: into thin air?" 32 Brian withdrew to the lounge and she heard him drop heavily on to the sofa in resignation. "I'm hardly going to criticise what you believe. However. and who it was that might have been involved. She said you like them. "You named Emily after your mother. depends on your beliefs as it's hardly a science that can be empirically tested either way. didn't you? She died before the twins were born. The little girl who had slept there should have still been there." Rachel glanced around the pink room scattered with dolls and fluffy toys. I'm sure you know about those. Brian appeared in the doorway. not missing. Rachel looked up from the bed into the eyes of an old woman in a purple polyester housecoat sitting on the edge of the opposite bed. "For some reason she indicated that point on the floor. but only hinted at and I have never heard of that outside of books and films. She looked back to the bed. "Amy was pointing to that spot when I found Emily had gone. She held a bunch of white roses out before her. "Your mother is looking after the family. "Some of what you have described could be related to poltergeist activity. Claire: I'm the one that talks with those that have passed on. She looked at Rachel and then pointed to a spot in the middle of the floor with grim concern. "Brian's mother is still with you." Tears ran down Claire's face and she nodded in acceptance of what had been said. Not taken from her bed. They are hypothesised to be manifestations of psychic energy. The Sixth Sense film had a lot to answer for. Things that could help identify what had happened in this room. Even without the guidance of a spirit there was a sense of loss in the room. "The police took the sheets and covers. She could glimpse the past from sensing the strong emotions and thoughts that anchored a moment or an event in space." Rachel said. . not really giving the definite answer Rachel wanted. and focussed on the carpet." Claire nodded. The emotion hung in the atmosphere like mist.? I mean she is still alive. You have young children. She should be with her family. I can't bring myself to remake it. yes? Tucked up in bed?" Claire nodded and pointed to the bare mattress. you know that.or what she saw.Chapter Six was obviously uneasy that Claire had told Rachel." She draped a comforting arm around Claire. isn't she. not away from the family and the mother who loves her and misses her and wants her. She coughed to clear her throat. thanks to the movies." Rachel got up and surveyed her surroundings." Claire struggled to concentrate on the present. listening stoically to Rachel's words. Claire? She loves you both and she has brought you some white roses." She half-laughed trying to lighten the situation but stepping round the dreaded catchphrase "I see dead people". As Rachel looked back to the woman she found she had gone. Claire shied away from Rachel's searching gaze. She was in her late sixties. or mischievous spirits drawn to a child. his eyes red and raw from his crying. "I don't know what to believe any more. "Why don't you show me where Emily used to sleep." Claire said. but she had found she could sense empathic feelings from things. and poltergeist activity tends to centre on them. hoping to escape the obstacle before them.. "That's the last place you saw her. sleeping her dreams. Her ability did not bring her total recall of events from the past. perplexed and speechless. knowing how outlandish it sounded. I'm here to give some insight if I can. which she hoped went some way in softening the impact of her non-commitment towards Claire's belief. The empathy welled within her and she coughed gently to clear her throat. with tightly curled grey hair and large glasses. playing with her toys. your daughter is missing and I'm not here to dispute the facts." Rachel barely waited for Claire to agree. What doesn't fit is what you haven't said. I don't know why -.

It had felt malevolent. the emotions and the presence were gone. Amy had seen it all. The attack tore viciously at her psyche sending her reeling. it wasn't a "someone". Whatever it was. Evil. as if her mind's eye had suddenly rushed through a maze into a dead end... She allowed Claire to support her arm and guide her stumbling feet down the hall into the lounge. She couldn't find her words or gather herself from her experience and was relieved at the stupor she found herself in. but the connection felt cold. uncomfortable with her desperately searching stare. Yet Rachel thought that to call it a person wasn't right. but at what was there with her -. The instant she left the space that had been indicated by Claire's mum and Amy. It took all of Rachel's control not to scream.. It dragged its presence through her head like glass raking her flesh as it reached into her." Claire's words trailed off. They both played with it.somehow within the residue of emotions from that night something was looking back into her mind. The feeling was quickly replaced with terror and this time Rachel did experience the emotion. not at the feeling she experienced.. Purely primal. Curiosity suddenly rushed into her. "Miss Daisy. Someone else had been there too. Rachel's focus widened as the numbness of the shock subsided and she became aware of a cold clammy veil on her body. She reached out for the doll and took hold of it. even those spirits whose humanity had been whittled away by their torment and anger. for the detachment she had felt from the doll told her that Emily's connection to this world had ended. . and her arms and her legs became rooting weights. but a "something"'. There was also no language to the thoughts. It had been animal-like. In her lifetime. and whatever had happened." 33 Rachel was glad to be back on track in her involvement but her mood plummeted at the thought of sensing if Emily actually had passed. like a thundering avalanche of raw undeveloped emotion. "What did you see? Is she. She turned away from Claire. An overwhelming sensation of nothingness swept through Rachel's senses. Emily had been on this spot. Rachel was glad to have set her boundaries. The doll had a past connection with Emily.something that had caught her interest then terrified her. Rachel had sensed more spirits than she could count or recall. some new clue that had been imperceptible until Rachel had unlocked it. she could sense how it was valued and cherished by the girls. She hated the thought of being burdened with that knowledge. She looked down to her feet and found she had wandered into the middle of the room where the apparition had pointed to and she instantly understood the feeling: Emily had been on this spot and she had seen something that night -. staggering to one side. it was powerful. "You got something didn't you!" Claire leaned close and looked about her as if she too would see something. Claire's face sharpened into concern at Rachel's bloodless appearance.Chapter Six "Did Emily have a favourite toy?" Claire picked up a large doll from a chair by the door. not her own emotion: as if she could observe the sensation outside of experiencing it. The feelings weren't coming from the doll. moments before she had disappeared. Rachel knew what Claire couldn't ask but longed to know. It signalled an ending. but it felt displaced. but she had never experienced anything like the "thing" she had just encountered. Whatever "It" was.

. "I can't say what happened that night. something was here with Emily. motion detectors. "I don't know." Rachel reluctantly and diplomatically conceded before the tug-of-war in her head could drag her in another direction." Claire and Brian shared looks again over the same response they had from the police." she stated simply." she stumbled to change her words.well. "But what you have described warrants investigation.if not the beliefs of insanity. once again relying on the truth in the face of an awkward question. I don't want to be intrusive on you --" she stepped around what she wanted to suggest. temperature sensors and lots of other things I couldn't hope to explain to you -. Did the connection indicate a pattern? Did that mean this wasn't over? Did that mean Amy wasn't safe." she paused allowing what she was saying to sink in.. "I don't have any explanations for you." Rachel made eye contact with both of them and held their gazes a moment. I will have to ask Dave about all the technical side. Rachel knew from what Claire had said that the phenomenon had occurred around Amy after Emily's disappearance.Chapter Six 34 Despite being seated. how could "it" be stopped from doing it again? Rachel shrugged off her fear and anger for Amy's safety. "Usually everyone stays over in the place under investigation." She decided to escape with a broad truth." Rachel felt Claire's arm slide from her shoulder as she moved to crouch at her feet. "I am uncomfortable with what I am going to suggest. It bordered on Hollywood fiction -." Rachel observed Claire search Brian for his opinion and support but received a blank stare in return. But I feel there is something more to this" Rachel hesitated as if the words were too difficult to speak. However. then how was it possible? Where had she gone? Rachel's defiant inner self was riled.to university equipment: cameras. That's where the investigation might be unwelcome. He has access -. There was so much uncertainty. but couldn't answer. "I'm going to lay my cards on the table. Claire. "I have a friend at a university." She passed a hand over her head in a mime of her inability to understand. "With what you have been through. "I think you were right.how this could happen as you believe it has. They didn't need to hear it again. but any relief at being free of Claire's kind gesture was short lived.I have to ask him to set the timer on my video so don't even get me started on what other things he may have. I don't know how to believe. Rachel swayed slightly and Claire embraced her to support her. "Perhaps a malignant spirit or some paranormal activity that I have not experienced or heard of before. "If something happened to Emily that's related to the lights and strange things that have been happening. "I couldn't get any idea of what happened. what Claire believed went against everything Rachel understood. Rachel understood that this was being left for Claire to deal with. It all tends to go over my head you see. "I'm sorry. "don't know how to understand it -. a technical boffin. If Claire's idea that it was a spirit that had "taken" the child were to be believed. but the last thing you want at the moment is a group of people sitting around your lounge. but Claire's laughter subsided . I think it can be done by remote though. this is a difficult time for you and I know everyone values privacy. The care and intimacy of the action left Rachel uneasy considering the knowledge she had about her daughter but couldn't share. and so much she couldn't accept." She paused as she considered the enormous demand it made of their family at an emotional time. Rachel now knew from her experience that something unnatural had been present during Emily's disappearance." She could not help sounding doubtful. but Claire didn't respond to her tone. "Friends have used him before to set up investigations on supposed hauntings. unofficial access -. and might share her sister's fate? They were questions that she couldn't share with the family yet she imagined they were also Claire's fears and nightmares. then these things are still happening. It involves cameras being in nearly every room." She laughed flippantly. So where does that leave Amy?" Rachel found the responsibility was back firmly with her again. Claire laughed and Rachel was pleased to disarm any tension within her.

I love her and if she says she believes something beyond our comprehension and understanding has happened then I can only agree. I doubt my experiences will convince you of the spiritual world. Enlightenment is not much to offer you. it helps to be open-minded. I have to trust her.all lighting. "I trust my wife. she was unsure if it was genuine interest or bare-faced scepticism. Rachel could only see the cloud of loss that glazed his eyes. "Have you ever seen anything on your investigations?" His question stumped her. you have to rely on someone else's word that it's genuine." Rachel realised that all he had to do to draw strength to believe. could vanish with no trace and no leads from a locked ninth-floor flat." She wanted him to know that she wasn't blind to understanding scepticism and she wasn't beyond having her own doubts when it came to the paranormal. And I don't mind from a spiritual or religious perspective.Chapter Six 35 abruptly and her mood was abandoned in mid-air as if she had forgotten what laughter was and its sound and presence startled her. "I see things all the time. I can be just as sceptical as you when I hear second-hand accounts or see an unexplainable image in a photo that I have had no part in taking. Rachel thought how lonely and empty that laughter had seemed in the home where the family's loss echoed so cavernously. mirrors and wires. That might take you closer to the truth. After all. Even then there will be doubt. Brian. I have seen film footage that has passed tests at photo labs and been unexplainable. "So it helps to be a believer?" "Yes. just simply that in the absence of conclusive tangible evidence. it isn't going to help with the police or anyone else. but is unlikely it will make it to the attention of the general public or create a rethinking of what we think we understand. Claire sat back with her husband and searched his eyes for any sign that might indicate what path his thoughts were on. Brian broke away from her gaze and cleared his throat. his daughter. You can do so much these days with modern technology. But at the moment all you and I have are questions. but it might go some way towards confirming your suspicion that something unnatural is going on here." For a few minutes there was silence. Even I have the sceptical voice inside me. 'something' is happening and if we can get some evidence of activity. The day someone finds something that's conclusive proof is the day it will be on the news and front page of every paper. was to ask himself how a seven-year-old-girl. . whether that truth lies more in my field or has more of a rational explanation. his wife's claims were a perfect example of that. quite. because I have lost a daughter and I don't have any way to explain her disappearance. Brian frowned and cut in. What's different here is that whether we want to believe or not. You will always get people that will say it was set up at the time the picture was taken -. However. People with open-minds are at a greater advantage at explaining things that are ambiguous or difficult to understand.

. It seems she's a medium." . smiling disarmingly. this was the Kelly he was used to seeing. "They aren't under arrest." Kelly's attention was full on him. surely?" Kelly opened the lift and they both stepped in. "I can't stop too long. politely ignoring his discomfort. Thought I should tell you because I didn't know how vulnerable they could be at this time. Craig had taken that as meaning she worked at town hall but she had corrected him. His hand landed on her chest with a soft pat. although he doubted whether he could be that person and wasn't sure if he wanted to be. "You scared the life out of me. and continuing his good deed by keeping her company until Claire Chambers had arrived." He decided not to finish his sentence and added another flustered apology.Chapter Seven 36 Chapter Seven Craig stepped out of the lift on the twelfth floor and headed for Kelly's flat. but he reasoned that giving her a heads up on the Chambers calling on a medium might serve to gain her trust and favour. Mr Digby. "They can have as many people as they like to come and visit them." Kelly motioned for him to continue their conversation while she walked. and Harry's strange comment about her 'type' not being welcome. but not as quickly as he would have liked.. wanting the world to instantly snuff him out of existence. "Sorry. After helping the older woman get past Harry and in to the building. 'It's not what you know. "Sorry. trying to get onto a more personal level. "She's from a local spiritualist hall.well. "I thought that might get your attention. the woman had assumed he knew her from 'the hall'." Of course they were. and that would provide him with leverage to bargain for a little more information from Kelly. I don't know what you have heard but they aren't prime suspects. "I spoke to the woman. Kelly had been reluctant to share any information on the Chambers' case with him. her small glasses hiding her eyes." He related what had happened in the lobby. it's what others think you know. Kelly might even think Craig could have a lead that hadn't been released.. Craig stepped away to let her out of her flat and he eyed her up and down discretely. frowning at himself and the embarrassment of the situation. it certainly hadn't been leaked to the press. formality felt uncomfortable and he wanted her onside. She was stiffly uniformed with her hair drawn back into a tight bun. "Craig. able to read between the lines and put words into mouths that don't or won't speak when you want them to. unrelenting. He would have to become a little more like Vicki if he wanted to get stories.. Craig retracted it." he interrupted. They both stared at it. If it was suspected that Emily was dead. have to start my shift. I meant to get your. "Who are?" Craig challenged firmly and saw her instant frustration with him." She clipped on her weighty utility belt as she walked. he felt mean running straight to Kelly to use her presence as a bargaining chip." She closed her door behind her and stood before him expectantly. hard. Craig reached for the knocker at the same time the door opened and Kelly rushed out. but it could be his way in to a story. I was downstairs earlier checking my mail and it would appear that the Chambers have a guest.' that's what Vicki said. it's just that -." She said. "Where are you going with this? You didn't come all the way up here to tell me they had visitors.

it's just I need a story -." "So you got anything for me in return then?" Craig beamed.. "It's not as one-sided as it sounds! After all. and her indignation softened. "I'm sorry. He wasn't perturbed. He cared about what people thought of him and he didn't want to be hard. "Not sure how I am going to approach them though.." Craig looked to his shoes in a display of boyish guilt. but who do you think would be under suspicion if I gave you insider info? That wouldn't do my career much good. "Besides. although when the woman had gone up in the lift with Claire another resident used the door without any problems.just like Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling. okay. So -. You're all the same.. Craig deflated as her spike of anger and disappointment lanced him.." She stepped to the doors as the lift slowed down.we could do it together. would you?" "You're suggesting a partnership of information?" "Quid pro quo -." Kelly laughed at his comparison and he was pleased he had humoured her. You Buffy. but she didn't stop walking. "Hey." Craig jumped out in front of her with a renewed enthusiasm. Especially where his hand had been. we want to know what's happening on our doorstep.but the chances are that just by living here on top of this you could pick up a lead." Kelly conceded. tactless and relentless as so many people saw journalists.Chapter Seven 37 Kelly glanced away thoughtfully as the lift doors rattled shut. "You could be Scully. going nowhere. and you wouldn't let that go.. Perhaps there's another answer to this: We could work together." The suggestion received a flash furrow of her brow. you probably know just as much as me." "I know that -. pressing the button for the ninth floor and the lift car rumbled downwards towards the Chambers' level. see how they are doing. We are both going to be following leads -. forcing him to hop and dance back from her determined step as he tried another approach.granted we have different motives. "Strange" Strange? Strange had been Harry not wanting the woman to come in." . Hear me out." Kelly stepped out of the lift and her frame stiffened and filled out her uniform. He didn't mention this -. It might mean the start of your career. I kind of hoped. He tried to cover the wound by rationalising that negative reactions came with being a journalist. or. "More like Abbott and Costello. Kelly shot him a look of disappointment. I did just bring you some information. me Mulder. "This isn't a trade-off. me Angel. but beyond our jobs we both have personal motivations..I'm not a detective. "Thanks for letting me know about this." "I'm not sure I like the analogy" "Yeah. distancing herself from him. I'm sorry.it was bad enough being seen as a mercenary journalist circling around a story without being a kook as well. then the door itself had fritzed.. joined with an "as if" cock of her head. She hadn't selected the floor she wanted and for a moment they stood in the blanching strip lighting of the lift. I could stop by." he conceded. "I should have known you didn't have their vulnerability in mind. you people. but the wound ached all the more as he was defending himself against the very criticism he often levelled at Vicki." "I won't be investigating leads -..I'm looking for my first story.

. and any intruder would have been in full view of the parents in the lounge. and given time and consideration of the fact that there was no evidence of forced entry. Amy stood in the doorway in her school uniform. "I can't take you around with me on police business. Wondering if this visit would change his world. drawn from conversation by their intrusion. and scared by all those standing before her. Although she felt a stab of guilt knowing she wouldn't follow through on her part if this proved to be a lead on the case. his uncertainty at her presence. Plenty of her colleagues suspected the parents. I was concerned. "I've been calling on you since all this happened. the parents' grief and fear for their missing daughter would not distract from them being suspected. "I'm sorry to call on you like this. looking diminutive. "so I hope you don't mind the intrusion. but only at my discretion." Brian stood aside and Kelly led Craig through while Brian closed the door behind them. Mr Digby here was worried for you. He had after all.Chapter Seven "Clouseau and Kato?" Craig stopped in his tracks beside the door to the Chambers' flat. either with news of his daughter or that he and his wife were under arrest." she said. He had such a happy face she imagined it was hard to say no to him when the pay-off was the wide curled smile and the sparkling excitement in his eyes. especially as I haven't come with any news Brian. Their expectant eyes were upon Kelly and the ground shifted beneath her with the weakness of her excuse. She had seen them at the Chambers' place before. Come on!" 38 "We can trade information. I actually came to check on you." Kelly continued in response to the grin that curled his lips tightly: "And if you risk my record at work I will be serving you up with a nice warm Chianti. "To be honest. She saw the breathless dance of fear in his eyes." Kelly took her hat off out of respect as Brian appeared at the door. See if you and Claire were alright" Kelly checked Craig was still by her side at the door. Kelly recognised the woman and the boy as residents but didn't know their name. he leaned past them and answered it in a fluster. obviously puzzled as to where this was leading and looked guiltily over his shoulder to a woman in the lounge. "It's nothing sinister. She shouldn't have come. what do you say?" he goaded." "I know that. Craig was quick to jump in." she explained. She retreated but the legs of the woman that accompanied her blocked her exit so she pulled her friend close to her for protection. All eyes turned to the door and there was silence. It's not being nosy -. but we can help each other out. The Chambers were fortunate that Albert Taylor the undertaker had gone missing just before Emily. placing the onus firmly on him.I just wanted to make sure you are okay. I just spoke to the person you invited up and I wasn't sure if she was genuine or not. Until the girl turned up or a body was found there was little to go on other than what had been presented. as it stopped the case pointing solely at the Chambers. Brian frowned. been the one to talk her into this. "Come on. Mr Chambers. visibly agitated around an expectant pause. After brief friendly greetings Brian lingered. It was outside her role." Kelly saw Claire and Rachel rise into full view in the lounge. Why had she allowed herself to be talked into this? Brian's mouth twitched towards explaining but was interrupted by the doorknocker rattling again.

as if he was hiding behind her. She crouched before her. Claire abandoned Kelly and Craig in the hallway with the woman they had been suspicious of. After some time she flashed a pained smile at Rachel. Don't worry yourself. She left Craig's side and walked over to Rachel in the lounge. She reassured both Amy and Jenny that things were okay and that she would call her later. brushed a stray swathe of hazelnut hair from her face and kissed her forehead. but does this mean they have given up hope?" Rachel appeared caught and unsure how to answer. while Craig hugged himself and rocked back and forth on his heels. Amy was the embodiment of Brian and Claire's loss." Rachel hushed across the room. now she was face to face with her it felt accusatory. What if the parents already knew Emily was dead because they had played a part in her death? She shrugged the thoughts away. "I'm sorry. Rachel. "No. Kelly's suspicion of Rachel was suddenly uncomfortable." "Is that why you're here?" Kelly deflected with a carefully loaded challenge. urging her on to suspicions of the parents she had been actively trying not to contemplate. the atmosphere of the room changed abruptly as if a great build-up of pressure had been released. Claire appeared momentarily torn between her daughter and their visitors. But it was Claire that contacted me. it was none of her concern. She looked up into the woman's face and thanked her for looking after Amy. you're here because you were concerned for the Chambers. who returned the gesture but without the discomfort. However." . "It's not formality. I hope you aren't taking offence. It struck Kelly as quite sweet. "I'm sorry. and their bodies could relax and acclimatize in her absence. Perhaps the Chambers had given up hope? They were entitled to approach anyone they wanted to for comfort. anywhere but in Rachel's vicinity.Chapter Seven 39 Claire left Rachel's side and pushed through Craig and Kelly to get to Amy. "I think we all need help to get through things like this. Brian shepherded a questioning Amy to her room. When you don't have the answers you look to others to help fill in the blanks. "I'm sorry. Rachel's waved his apology away and her smile didn't falter. "I hope you know I don't mean the Chamber's any harm. If Rachel felt challenged she didn't express it within the gentle smile and quick answer. "it's just a formality. Kelly sought distraction through looking around the room. the Chambers calling Rachel signified a possibility Kelly hadn't thought they would be considering. she called her Jenny and the boy was Jason. "I don't want to pry." His eyes flicking between Rachel and the floor like a guilty kid." she whispered before lying. "I just want to see if Amy is okay. She was more concerned this medium might be some crank trying to get in on the press attention or get money by playing on the family's hopes. yes. "I do care." Kelly chastised herself for intruding on the Chambers.even God. If there was any truth in nonsense like the paranormal then there would be more evidence and less scepticism." she said. Personally she didn't believe in spirits -. Strangers tend to make her uncomfortable at the moment." With that. As Amy disappeared from view." Craig moved stiffly to Kelly's side and leaned over her shoulder. Rachel." Rachel's grey diamond eyes studied her.

" . As I explained to the Chambers. "It is hard." The three stopped their discussion dead as Claire and Brian returned from Amy's room. Kelly would only accept tangible evidence. I mean?" "Whatever answer I give you. I'm afraid. wanting him to be aware of her intention of retreat as she addressed the others. and specifically thanked Claire for trusting her with her story. it was her training. someone offering you a fabric of lies that you desperately want to believe because the truth is more painful. Kelly nudged Craig." Rachel closed in on Claire. She became sensitive to the awkwardness of her presence as her purpose for being there weakened the longer they stayed. What fantasy had she weaved for the Chambers? "Have you? Filled in the blanks." Claire smiled at her appreciatively. An aspect of her was envious that he could get away with following any line of thought. She thought of Ian telling her that he loved her. real help to get past the ambiguity of their daughters disappearance. Kelly listened as Rachel thanked the Chambers for inviting her into their home."Kelly accepted her sincerity and relaxed her judgement. even though the cold fact was that Emily had now been missing for three weeks. Which. you wouldn't believe me. Maybe it was the sentimental optimist within her. whereas the police had to justify the plot with the intricacies of its causality fully explored and explained. They must be terrified of leaving her. not the mystification of faith with it's' own ambiguities. Have a think about it and if you feel you want to go ahead we can get that equipment sorted. isn't it? I hate being in there. but she couldn't come to a conclusion that meant snuffing out a life without concrete evidence to support it. I was just looking out for your well-being and hope you see it that way. Kelly held back a knowing smirk at Craig's attempts to get an angle on a story." "I could see how torn Claire was between us and wanting to be with Amy. It feels so intrusive. and more surprising to her she also saw it in Rachel. something to help them live with the uncertainty of Emily's fate. although they refused to decay into a lessening presence." "If you're going I don't suppose you would show me out?" Rachel looked back to the Chambers. Although Rachel seemed nice enough. Outside the flat Kelly felt a sense of relief wash through her.Chapter Seven 40 Despite Kelly's lack of faith in Rachel's talents she strangely yearned to ask if Emily was dead. "I don't think any good can come from an answer either way when it comes to Emily. "I hope you didn't mind me having you as an escort. Procedure. the blanks are not going to be filled by me. and saw the same refreshment at being free of the smothering grief and desperation in Craig. would you?" "I might. That was what the Chambers needed. again. she had those already and they were buried in the back of her mind. but knew that any answer would leave her dissatisfied. seeming to decide against a hug and simply placed her hand on her shoulder. She gave Claire the number of a Priest who would bless their home. "It's nice to know we have people looking out for us in this block. there was something about clairvoyance and spiritualism that she disliked. She liked the way that Rachel gave them the choice of which avenue to pursue. I hope I haven't disturbed you all. Claire and Brian had such expectations of me I was grateful for an opportunity to make my departure. It can be easy to forget. gives little comfort to them. "I think I've done all I can for now." Craig jumped in. "Well. She needed more than probabilities and hunches. He could present a story or idea and let the public come to their own conclusions. the idea of another person using the Chambers torment and need for hope riled Kelly until Rachel also passed Claire the number of a counsellor. Brian smiled uneasily at Kelly and hugged himself. She had had seventeen weeks of procedure in her training at Hendon.

I'm the believer. glancing to the floor of the lift. but I know my way around. "I did a lot of work with different cameras when I was at university. but in my opinion it is not through the power of the priest or his religion. so I won't bore us all by wasting explanations that you won't accept" There was a twinkle in her eye that softened her snipe. "Yes. to try and prove they aren't going mad. "Really?" 41 Rachel balked at her questioning and Kelly conceded to how fearful for Amy the Chambers would be. "Comes with the job. but the psychological effect it can have through the beliefs of the spirits or those experiencing phenomenon. Surely the Chambers would not fear their second daughter going missing? It was highly unlikely that her abductor would return to the original crime scene and victims now that everyone's awareness and vigilance was so heightened. but I am not sure of the range. My technical boy can sort something out so the only imposition will be the presence of the cameras. Rachel appeared caught and avoided his stare. which I don't think is fair on the little girl." "So back there you suggested a priest for purposes other than spiritual comfort.. busying herself by unnecessarily adjusting the strap of her handbag on her shoulder before looking ahead to the door. shrugged and flashed a smile in acceptance of her title. I did explain to them that it does mean taking over the flat. especially with children. Kelly cocked her head to one side. That's why they asked me to come and offer them some insight.. "The Chambers have had some activity in their flat. It can happen in times of stress. "Yes." Rachel accepted Kelly's hand and shook it." Kelly had intended a breezy challenge but her abruptness betrayed her distaste. to which Rachel nodded." Rachel gave in and faced them both..." Rachel smiled at them both in turn before returning her gaze to the doors. quite." "You mean transmitting the image remotely?" Craig jumped in." "They have had some strange events centred on Amy.. The Chambers have agreed to let us hold a bit of a stake-out with some equipment. now feeling even more uncomfortable with Rachel and the priest's involvement. that's my explanation. . preparing himself another angle for involvement? "So there you go. Probably not in the manner that you imagine though.. "Hey. "I didn't really start out on the right footing with you back there." Kelly concluded. A blessing of the property can help sometimes." "Don't you think it's' poor timing. "What was that you said back there about equipment?" Craig fired directly. and we can record and watch the footage from a distance. of course. she's the sceptic. Kelly spoke a silent thank you to Craig in her head. nothing too high-tech. "I'm pretty sure I am talking to sceptics.. "Yes." Kelly spotted that Craig had suddenly become fidgety." he defended light-heartedly. The three headed down the hall and rode the lift together.Chapter Seven Kelly thought Rachel's comment was odd." Yet Kelly shook off the lingering idea that Rachel knew more than she was saying and quickly introduced herself to Rachel within their new situation..

and stuffed it into her purse. but she held back and when Rachel was out of earshot she spoke. I will call you tonight. "Oh. "You're a crafty basta--" She abruptly stopped her playful abuse. Make up for me thinking you might be a crank and dragging the law down on you." She broke her concentration and paused briefly in her search. Craig shrugged." Her arm rooted through her hoarded belongings. I am only two floors up from Claire so you wouldn't have to worry too much about boosting the frequencies. "I have an open mind." Rachel rooted around in her voluminous bag. that would be a very good idea. Kelly experienced a sudden flush of disappointment.. But if you end up printing anything I wasn't even there. "All right then." Despite her own reservations that screamed against being involved. you still haven't actually asked me if you can come to my place yet. "I have a pen here somewhere. Craig shrugged innocently. "It's also nice to know you don't think I am mad. He held the door open for Kelly." Craig winked." His motive was obvious. but her face was burning." She pulled out her purse and a chunky mobile phone and after some fumbling and balancing of the items she carried she produced a scrap of paper from her purse. She was shocked that after all this time of being self-restrained she had slipped past her own defences. "Of course. okay?" "Hey. "Could be fun. He wasn't deterred. "That's very nice of you. "You're buying into what Rachel said?" she asked him incredulously. it's about as close to the story as I'm likely to get. "Well -.as odd as the whole situation is." . it felt dangerous but frighteningly seductive. "If I knew how to switch the blasted thing on." Kelly bit her tongue. and thank you again for the offer of your flat." Craig said dismissively with an open-handed gesture. "Well." Rachel made her goodbyes and Craig activated the buzzer that released the door. folded the piece of paper with Craig's phone number scrawled on it.. thank you both for showing me down." Rachel waved his offer away. I wouldn't want to be any inconvenience to you. "We should exchange phone numbers.Chapter Seven 42 Kelly found some amusement in Rachel not taking Craig's bait and the briefest expression of disappointment on his young face. it's no worry.. obviously happy to have turned the tables and have her fishing for involvement. Thank you.." She produced a pen and beamed triumphantly. You could do your little stake-out in my flat. He had a cheeky streak. feeling left out. "So." "Why don't you put me on your mobile?" Craig suggested after some time passed in Rachel's search. which now worked. the familiarity was alien and uncomfortable.. I wouldn't want to interfere with your police professionalism. do I get mixed up in your obvious ploy to be at the heart of the action?" "Ask me nicely and you can come too." "Don't make me out to be your ogre!" Kelly laughed. "Seriously. "I wouldn't mind helping. "Aha!" The lift came to a halt and Rachel stepped out onto the ground floor. She hadn't been as relaxed with a man since Ian..

"partner-thing then just say. or watch the crowds passing by. Kelly stared impassively through him. or to stay in this moment and see where it led. obviously thrown by her sudden frustration. you could sit and watch the narrow boats come and go. She was swimming out of her depth and in panic she lashed out to recover a stroke towards a more manageable depth. Come along. And if I get anything out of this I won't mention you. She couldn't. "How about we go for a coffee after you finish your shift. between the green iron Chalk Farm bridge loaded with tourists and the hump-backed coble bridge that reached into Camden's famous bustling market. A fluttering heat she hadn't allowed herself. I have work and I'm already late. Could men and women just be friends anyway? However. How does that sound? The Ice Wharf is nice. the shameless twinkle in his blue eyes and his flirtatious tone complimented by his lilting west-country accent stirred a warmth deep within her that frightened her. A good venue for a date. "Look. get to know each other so we don't rub each other the wrong way? My treat. I have plans tonight. The pubs terrace looked out over the locks. Do you know it?" She knew it. His smiling bravado. To tempt him and herself. If you don't want to do this partner --" the word "partner" stung her like an angry wasp and caused her to fluster. It wasn't his wrong at all. as if her eyes were on glass. the status quo had been restored and the anxiety caused by her familiarity had subsided. apologising blandly over her shoulder." Craig apologised and stepped back defensively. Her feet flinched." The panic was evident on Craig's face as he tried to fathom where he had gone wrong. It was a large glass fronted bar in the centre of Camden beside the canal. I'm not going to beg you. to go and escape. "Okay! Okay. She shamefully realised her outburst had probably sabotaged yet another possible friend. . "I'd better go. the coy swagger of his head as he spoke. Kelly observed Craig warily. then she looked away. Craig. caught between two opposing urges." she lied apologetically.Chapter Seven 43 There was flirtation in his tone. "Sorry. and she experienced a bruising anguish for actually caring." She walked away.

" "Oh." He pulled a card out of his pocket. yet what the story was he couldn't be sure. I was buzzing him from outside but he doesn't seem to be in. I will have to catch him another time then. and he might get to know her better. He had replayed the scene over and over again in his head. The last time he had sat down for a drink with a girl was with Vicki at the Devonshire Arms. He closed it and held it close to his extended belly. Have you seen him today?" Craig carefully looked over the man whose very clothes exuded the same dampness that gave his skin its clammy unhealthy appearance. Listen. A man. thinking it was obvious that Craig lived there as the man had just seen him use his key." Craig related Rachel's trouble with Harry. giant in all directions. I'm just checking that he is looking after himself and his flat that's all. Camden had some great bars and restaurants for a date. who appeared to be in his late thirties." he said. "Do you live here? Do you know your neighbour Harry Crabb?" Craig paused. "Sorry. He might not have managed to get Kelly to go for a drink with him. He had been himself. "Is he care in the community?" "No. but at least she would be coming round later for the stake-out.Yeah. faces glinting with piercings and clothes ranging from Victoriana to Matrix punk. but before he could make it inside he was distracted by the sound of steps closing in on him in the corridor. no. but as far as he could see he hadn't said anything she could take objection to. trying to shake the sticky calling card from his fingers. Benchman his headmaster at secondary . Not the experience he had hoped for with Vicki. the thrashing music louder than the rainbow range of hair colours of the punters.Chapter Eight 44 Chapter Eight Craig approached the door of his flat mulling over the new things the day had brought him. then rested his second chin heavily on his open collar and nudged his black-rimmed glasses back into place on his podgy ursine face and checked through a fat diary brimming with a clutter of notes. It had been an excuse for Vicki to check out the drug scene for a potential story. "Er -. "Yeah. I don't suppose you know how he is getting on?" Craig shrugged nonchalantly. "I don't really see him about very much. caught Craig's eye with a nod. He mourned the lost opportunity of being with someone. half-in his flat. scattering cotton lint and sweet wrappers." he breathed heavily. "I was meant to meet him. A story that didn't even make it onto her PC as the drug scene was hardly news in Camden. he was in the lobby earlier. he pushed his way into his flat. maybe familiar and playful. his social worker. so if you ever have reason for concern or complaint for Mr Crabb I would appreciate it if you would give me a call. or catch a comedy show. dressed in brown cord trousers and a tweed jacket came to a pause near his door. He felt some satisfaction with getting a little closer to a story. but he was being a bit weird today. full of waiflike moonfaced people with thick black eye makeup. Mr Crabb tends to avoid me. The Dev was a goth/alternative pub. good. and he had always wanted to go to the Round House and see a gig. The mystery of Kelly's abrupt hostility still troubled him. Suddenly. Keying the door open. I'm Scott Bray. The man. He prayed it wasn't a story suited to the National Enquirer or Daily Sport. He had always thought the Ice Wharf would make a great spot for a date. swiping beads of sweat from his brow. his large hand turning his pocket inside out in the process. Why?" "Oh. Craig nodded his goodbye and closed the door on him. and ended up with Vicki drinking him under the table after seven pints of Snakebite.

propped upright by the adjustable bed facing the ultrasound equipment. the disposable paper sheet beneath her crackled noisily. more determinedly. "This'll be cold.. something solid and moving." Gary smiled in sympathy of her anxiety. "You might feel a little discomfort. 'this time'?" She snatched her hands free of his in protest. His calculations didn't cheer him and in the quiet of his flat he felt the need for company to comfort him. It had been a nightmare... Waking in her dream she had been unable to move.Chapter Eight 45 school came into his mind at the thought of the stake-out. stretching latex gloves onto her hands and pinching bangs of black hair behind her ears. had haunted her... but he wanted to physically be with someone. working out the incoming cash he would be getting against his outgoings. but all day the memory of the thing that had visited her. More fed up. He considered checking MSN. The memory of her nightmare was vivid in her mind. He thought of Vicki. he would only echo their parent's advice for him to give up on his London life and go home. He made himself a mug of tea and sat down at his kitchen table. something was in the glow. The skin was tight and distended. it would be tight but he could get through for the next couple of months. "Ouch -. Pulling the screen around to face her." She rubbed her free hand over the naked bump of her abdomen. She pushed the probe harder. She pushed the bulbous lens of the probe into the gel and spread it out firmly in a circling motion. "Sorry. her dark narrow eyes transfixed on the screen. just out of sight around her bump. Only able to move her eyes she hadn't been able to see whatever it was.. The young oriental nurse returned. He did some mental maths.Honey! I think you're breaking my hand. but he didn't really want to speak to him anyway. Before he could explain himself the door to the cluttered white room sprung open. but remembered she would be working. "What do you mean. something invisible pressing her down." The nurse looked to her monitor and frowned as she worked. "I've been five months and it has felt right up until now -but now there's something wrong. "I'm just nervous. His neighbour Virtue might be home with her little boy." Gary's hand joined hers affectionately over her stomach." The clear gel oozed onto her stomach in a glistening lump." She frowned at the frustration of not being able to explain the feeling she had inside of her since she had awoken that morning." "What's wrong?" Deborah shifted on the bed.. babe." The nurse came close and squeezed the tube hard. . "You haven't miscarried this time. "I'm just going to get someone to come and take a look. And the list of people came to an abrupt end. "Okay. distracted. he decided to trawl through the Internet for some free porn. "Is the baby okay?" she yelped.. and his mood plummeted.. The noise of the corridor outside the private room was muted in her distraction. She held on to her husband's hand in the subdued quiet of the room at the Royal Free hospital." Deborah released her grip and shifted her weight on the firm mattress. but he didn't fancy it. Waiting. although she knew if she had she might have lost her mind.. It won't hurt the baby though. A green light played across the ceiling. Deborah Symmonds was stretched out on the bed.. unsure of what to do with himself. Why was he playing around with a stakeout for ghosts? He needed serious work. "I got the gel. but I'm sure you know that by now. Deborah sighed with hurt." she announced. Raising herself forward over her bump as far as she could. "Darlin'!" he placated as he retook her hand in a tight reassuring grip. It was okay. His brother Darren would be working.. the nurse pulled the scanner probe from the trolley and trailed the thick coiled wire over her shoulder to avoid dragging it across her patient. she had said to call in anytime. a weight had been pressing down on her chest." She waved a hefty tube before them and rolled her eyes. "Wish people would replace this stuff when they use it.

The doctor groaned impatiently. and then again. "Probably just a problem with the machine. Puzzled. the screen ominously hidden from them. All wrong.. Rachel hesitated on the path to the Heights main entrance as David stopped. He turned to her and shoved his thick bifocals back onto the bridge of his nose. His face wrinkled then smoothed out into blankness. The nurse picked up the probe and repeated the procedure to demonstrate for the doctor. don't worry." "Prince Charles is at it again. only giving Deborah a cursory acknowledgement." the nurse explained as she backed out of the room. The fear climbed up inside her chest in crushing handholds.things will be okay. "I'm so sorry.. who seemed anxious to deal with the problem and be gone. terrified.. Come on. He smoked them down to a stub that he had to hold with precision." he wondered dryly. seemingly with a mentality of if it is not working then be forceful with it until it does. "Apparently they had two unusual activities yesterday." Rachel looked about them as they got closer to the entrance. "I think we might actually stand a chance of catching something on film this time. The doctor looked from the probe to the screen that held the grainy black and white view of her pulsing insides and the dark cavernous space where the baby boy should have been. "Babe. Half of her resolve wanted to turn the screen round. fearful of what she might see. David shrugged his body in a half-laugh before dragging from his painfully thin roll-up cigarette pinched between his nicotine stained finger and thumb. and snatched the probe from her. a flash of green light in the lounge." Rachel dismissed his mutterings with a humouring grin. unsure what to say but trying to look reassuring despite her ochre skin going blotchy pink on her cheeks. Claire rang me last night. with even less respect for comfort. He looked Deborah in the face warily and applied his stethoscope to her stomach and then re-applied it. don't cry -. terrified. tears forming in her eyes while her voice struggled for clarity. "What do you think it is? I knew there was something wrong. while the other half restrained her anxious curiosity. She watched him brush his wild mop of dark hair from his eyes as he scanned the drab body of the towering flats.. it's never been your fault." Deborah's speech raced." . Gary. he sighed and flicked a few switches on the monitor and re-applied the probe more diligently. "Are you sure this isn't some elaborate scheme for them to get satellite TV installed? There are a distinct lack of satellite dishes here.Chapter Eight The nurse looked awkwardly from Deborah to the monitor. He had the ability to roll one one-handed whilst driving that caused Rachel to sink her fingernails into the upholstery. it might be the machine. The nurse came in with a male Asian doctor. rubbing the thick stubble of his neck." 46 Gary put his arm round her and pulled her head to his. It just feels wrong. A door slamming in an empty room and then later. obviously wanting to return to whatever he had been dragged from. "Actually." Deborah stared at the back of the monitor. He ran it roughly over Deborah. one just after I left. and another in the evening. He put the two large cases of technical equipment on the ground and lit up another roll-up. He had had six cigarettes on their way to the tower. "Is that snobbery I hear?" Rachel raised a warning eyebrow at him and grinned. this building is being considered for preservation by the National Heritage.

. With her numb arm Maggie pushed herself upright and dragged her legs round onto the stairs." Claire's voice crackled out of the intercom over David's chuckle.. which left the stairs overcast and the corners of the landings blanketed with hazy webs of cloying grey shadow. you're a spook junky! Maybe all it needs is a willingness to believe. but she quickly and strictly dismissed them. The rejection didn't alleviate the overbearing weight of her unfulfilled responsibility. She didn't dwell on that." She smiled smugly. and then if we do find something you will accept it. She hobbled down the steps as . "You weren't a believer. then pulled painfully on the banister until she stood on her shaking withered pin legs. She looked above the lift doors to see where the lifts were. she fantasised of it leading to a reunion. Her bones and weak muscles groaned and stretched inside her as she struggled awkwardly with the weight of the fire door with one hand. One was on the twelfth floor while the other was on the fourteenth. "Nana's gonna take you shopping!" She pressed the call buttons again but frowned as she noticed they didn't light up. the morning sun was the other side of the building. Rachel operated the intercom to Claire's flat. She looked through the glass door and her eyes settled upon Catherine's letter box." Maggie Riley headed toward the lift from her flat on the fifth floor. just like Cat had told her so spitefully the last time they had spoken. She hoped that her visits would result in a chance meeting. On her previous visit Rachel had managed to resist the strong urge to hunt Cat down. It rattled in its place but remained firmly closed. baby boy!" she cooed. She smiled broadly down at her grandson but spoke through gritted teeth. Squeezing past the pram she prodded the buttons to summon the lift then bobbed her head down into the hood of the pram. David flicked the remainder of his cigarette sparking onto the path and he hefted the boxes back up into his arms and they resumed the short journey to the main entrance. The door buzzed loudly and Rachel took the cue and pushed it. "Now look at you. The arm that had trailed after the pram failed to break her fall and the cartilage in her socket made a sickening grinding sound. Stepping back further to pull the pram through the door. "Hullo. She stabbed them repeatedly just to make sure. leaving a green stain on her retina. You haven't seen or heard anything that couldn't be explained rationally. "This is where Nanna gets her hip replacement.Chapter Eight 47 "Even if we do catch anything on camera. sacrificing her balance to keep a steadying grip on the pram as she dragged it through the gap. it was too painful." She pushed the pram down the corridor. leaned on the heavy fire door to open it onto the stairs and stepped backwards onto the concrete landing. The force of it yanked her from her feet and she smashed into the floor. Maggie's fear overrode the physical pain at the sound of the heart-stopping clatter of the pram crashing down the flight of stairs ahead of her. Rachel. Maggie looked back to the baby. yet you have done a lot of these stakeouts now.. she met the banister with her back and caught a view of the sheer vertical drop over the side into the echoing depths. Rachel sagged and rolled her eyes and she languidly stabbed the intercom once more. However. but it refused. She screamed for God's help and dragged her head up in time to see the pram upturn scattering the blankets and stuffed toys on the landing below. "Nanna's got to take you down the bloody stairs. She tried again before the buzzer cut out. "I'll buzz you up. A blaze of light streamed screaming past her." Perhaps no word from Cat meant she really didn't need Rachel after all.. it's not working again. Her jaw impacted on the concrete sending hot blood spurting from between her lips as the blow jarred her teeth loose. Something rushed through the light and the pram was slammed from her grip. There were no lights within the stairwell in the day as the large windows that ran the height of the building were meant to provide all the required light. will anyone ever believe it?" David replied cynically. "Claire. Neither of them seemed to be moving. Her instinctual fear of heights made demands on her danger sense. Won't that be fun?" she cooed sarcastically.

patting onto the concrete and the pram.Chapter Eight quickly as she could. leaning heavily on the banister rail. Jamie!" she sobbed as she searched. the sound of the lift arriving echoed tauntingly down the corridor into the stairwell... The fire door closed gently on her plight. blotting into the fibres of the soft pastel blankets. Her body gave up on her. She pulled at the covers frantically but found nothing. She stopped her search abruptly. carried home by the automatic hydraulic arm. Oh. diving into the bundle of covers. 48 "Jamie. fear washed over her like an icy plunge. Before it closed. She dropped awkwardly to the floor. more sliding and stumbling than actually running. the hairs bristled on the back of her neck in a tingling wave of realisation that chased up onto her scalp. . Blood from her broken nose ran from her face. She twisted on her seat to the banisters beside her and the killer drop beyond. praying she wouldn't find the warmth and wet of spilt blood. my God.

it's just what Jen does. and that isn't easy considering. She ignored the twisting maze of colours. Rachel knew that his unshaven appearance with his unkempt locks. It's just I'm used to playing mum. seems the person who did this mural had a bit of the spiritual about them. You really comforted me. "Not late. He added the final touch to his first impression by setting his load down and roughly thumbing his faded jeans up over his partly bared underwear and beer belly." Rachel stepped through. "I'm starting to think this door doesn't like you. am I. then leaned in close to Rachel. You're very easy to warm to. "I hope you don't mind. but you made a good impression on Brian. The rune of "Algiz".. That's a runic symbol. and the sweeping curls and spirals that lured her away from its secret image and tried to search for the shape again. "Look. We treat each other's places as home from home. but she focussed all her willpower into ignoring the uncomfortable tingling of her eyes drying so that she could continue to try and unlock its visual encryption. A strained smile chiselled and cracked her face into lines she shouldn't have. What you said last night on the phone -. The shape she had found was immediately lost again." Claire said as she clicked the kettle on. "Just in time to take these boxes up for David. suddenly conscious of making herself comfortable in someone else's home. Now she knew what she was looking for it was easy to find the symbol again. The picture suddenly opened itself up under her study and she quickly allowed herself to blink and lubricate her eyes. She locked onto a subtle change of shade and followed it.when I called you. she said. Her eyes strained to blink free of the stare.Chapter Nine 49 Chapter Nine Claire pressed the door buzzer and pulled the door open for Rachel and David. It was a Runic letter. her attention once again caught by the mosaic on the lobby wall. Very motherly!" . Dave can start dragging the rest of his equipment up while Claire and I get the kettle on. that's odd. closely followed by David struggling up the steps with his load. the new addition. "I want to thank you for not thinking I was some kind of nut. Rachel smiled as encouragingly as she could manage in Claire's direction whilst making a mental note to buy David a belt. looking almost translucent with faint blue veins below the surface of her skin giving her the appearance of fragile marble. Rachel stood. Thought to be a symbol of protection. Rachel stopped herself." "Don't worry. Rachel discretely caught David's arm before he could leave to collect more equipment and pointed out her discovery. scruffy black jeans and tee-shirt with its gaudy zombie thrashing at a Stratocaster. The second lift at the back of the lobby opened and Craig strolled out. am I?" "Just in time!" Rachel hurried through the introductions then addressed Craig. Rachel noticed Claire studying David. "Not really working so well though." he shrugged and waited for Craig to waddle past with his inherited load. Claire appeared beyond pale with the lack of sleep and worry." "No. you know -. presented him more like a middle-aged heavy metal fan than the professional boffin he was. Not just that." "If you say so. but she already recognised the large trident-like symbol." Dave dumped the boxes into Craig's arms in a deadpan gesture of "welcome to my world".me thinking that I have ghosts and stuff?" "I'm hardly one to criticise you for seeing spooks. is it?" Rachel took four mugs from the mug tree and dragged the tea caddy towards her while Claire filled the kettle..

I like to listen and help if I can.. and ." Craig knocked on Kelly's door unsure how she would greet him after her change of mood with him in the lobby earlier that day." "Still not talking? Poor child. and somehow with her there the right words had come easily." Claire stared off into the rushing steam of the boiling kettle." She didn't want to talk about it. "Oh." Before Rachel's mind could dwell on the painful memories Claire's words raised. She hadn't been asked that in years." Claire pulled the fridge door open to get the milk. you found the spoons then. He was surprised to get an invite. After a moment she answered. I just wish Amy would speak to me. Despite her hair being free and the masking glasses gone. Claire closed the fridge door and started as she watched Rachel squeezing the life out of the tea bags. The love I'm sure she gets from you and Brian will only help. and it burned into her composure. Defeated. "She looks how me and Brian are feeling inside. "Well. No. She eyed Rachel and pointed to a drawer in the kitchen unit. her casual state was betrayed by a look of distraction. but her face was pale and set. He had been working up to getting it just before she had turned cold on him in the lobby and he had decided against asking." Rachel took the kettle from its cradle and poured the hot water into the mugs. "She might not be talking about it but she is expressing her feelings. so you just call when you need an ear. no.Chapter Nine 50 While Rachel had talked to Claire on the phone Claire's mother had appeared to her again. "You know it's odd." "The mothering side with its kitchen compass. not only because she looked good in the fitted top and tight black Levi's." Claire smiled weakly." Rachel hesitated as she considered the hypocrisy of her philosophy. You or I can keep our feelings hidden. He didn't have her phone number. but he hoped it would mean she would be more relaxed." She winced a smile at him.. "Do you have children?" The question caught Rachel like a sharp slap to her senses. unsure of what Craig took in his. Rachel needed to remain the rock Claire obviously needed. Rachel sugared the teas as far as she could. I don't. he had only come to say "hi" and invite her down to join Rachel and David in his flat." "Children can't hide their feelings very well and I think that's a good thing really. Her flat had an identical layout to his. she saw Claire's mum standing next to her. which probably does us more harm. and he was grateful that she was out of uniform. Now I worry about whether a door is going to slam or something is going to terrify Amy again. you sound like a perfect mum. "Er. if he liked tea at all. For three weeks all I could think and worry about was Emily." "She just looks so scared and beaten down. It's the one thing that would help her come to terms with Emily not being here. "A child would have been very lucky to come to you. its barb digging deep within her. not with Claire. She greeted him lightly enough and with a smile that spoke of being glad to see him. At least you know there is something wrong and you can try and help them. "Don't worry. I am surprised. "Come in.

can we talk off the record?" "Hey. a girlfriend. she miscarried and she is hysterical. Kelly sighed. he hoped disarmingly. seemingly lost at what to say or do. went missing last night." "I mean it though. The plainness of the lounge was softened by colourful modern art prints and soft furnishings. "No need to be.. Kelly hugged herself. Kelly. looking awkward. Her flat was quite a contrast to his. You know how to treat a boy. it looked cosy. Kelly didn't take a seat or offer him one though." Just his luck to get a lead only to be sworn to secrecy. but he was rewarded by Kelly's resolve relaxing into a brief laugh. She could be quite scary when she wanted to be. He liked all his stuff. Maybe when Darren bought a place with his fiancé he would get some of Darren's gear. Darren had good taste and he went through clothes like a girl or a gay so it saved Craig some cash." Craig joked. Craig. Although Kelly was new to him. She told me that the investigation into the Chamber's case might be taking a new twist: Sarah Muller. grimaced and shrugged to herself. saying the baby has been . Living in Darren's shadow might pay off after all. but he felt relaxed enough to tease her professionalism and could imagine some good laughs winding her up and messing with her. "What's wrong. Her friends were waiting outside for her. "Yesterday. but it can't go any further than this room. "Sorry. but what's wrong?" he persisted. "Threats of physical violence." She pointed at him under a fixed glare. Just tell me whatever it is that's eating you up. he liked her. It was the neutral colours she had chosen that gave the place its light and airy feel.although now was probably not the time to joke about that.." She let the fact sink in. He could imagine Vicki groaning at him putting someone's feelings over a story. "Just before you got here I got a call from a friend from work. If what I say gets in print I'll throttle you. a car. Craig. I am not gonna use every chat we have. He had resented it as a kid. Darren's place was more like Kelly's." Sometimes he couldn't help himself. With a brother three years older than him he was used to hand-me-downs. He didn't know the girl but the story was sinister enough to have effect. she paced a little. but had come to accept it now.. There were two plump terracotta sofas with plush furry brown and beige cushions and throws. I'm not that dedicated to being a journalist. like he did with Vicki. like him having a better job. and she had been a bit off with him. hers seemed fresher and cleaner than his. but he knew he wouldn't do anything that might jeopardise a trust in any relationship he had. He didn't ever imagine feeling comfortable with a copper. The muted colours continued in the lounge but were accompanied by simple pieces of maple furniture.. "Don't even worry about that. another resident was five months pregnant." She smiled. Kelly?" She looked away momentarily. She wondered what was going on over here.Chapter Nine 51 although he had recently gone through the flat giving it a paint. She never made it out of the building. "It could be story related. apparently caught off guard by his observation. Her mum sent her off to meet friends on the estate and told her to be home by ten. She pulled herself together. a fifteen-year-old girl.. a mortgage. "Sorry. Maybe she wasn't as sensitive as he had thought. even the hall which tended to be shadowy from the lack of windows seemed brighter.. There were worst aspects of living in your big bro's shadow. but he had picked it up at boot sales and second-hand shops and his place had more of a lived in look. but he saw through it. but then Darren had a steady job and could afford nicer things. Craig gave a half-smile. He liked that too -.

That was the hardest day on the job. well I say a boy but he was about twenty. like changing the channel on TV from one story to another. Maggie Riley had a fall in the stairwell and the pram fell down a flight." Craig waved her down. Sometimes things don't affect you unless you can relate . He could hear Vicki tutting at him in his head. At the scene I was told to sit with the boyfriend -. neighbours. Look." She grimaced in distaste. "Don't worry. After all this time I have spent at Kentish Town Station and all the crimes I have come across I still don't understand how your life can just be turned inside out like that. Imagine what it would be like seeing the blood of someone you cared about. I just don't want it coming back to me. "Last year we were called to a flat. they will come out and you can do what you like with your angle after that. the whole lot. apparently resigned to the frustration of the situation.I dunno!" He gave up on his movie psychology and ruffled a hand through his scruffy hair as if it would somehow make his thoughts clearer. The miscarriage one might be just Well. The boy's blood was everywhere.he had returned from popping out for a bottle of wine for their dinner and found him. watched her quiver uncomfortably with her fear and openness.or something at least. feels different now. It was someone else's story from another place. It's only what has been going through my head since I got the call. She lives here -. A boy. "I never understand the sick camaraderie down the station when things like this happen. "You care a lot about other people or you wouldn't do what you do. "Is this becoming a serial snatcher or something? One of those psychotic 'collectors'? Satanists? -. Little Jamie. yet at the end of the shift I went home and it was distant again. "Don't worry about it. the baby. "That's what I'm trying to understand. Maybe that's the antidote to the world you despair at." He smiled reassuringly. he had tried that earlier and it hadn't panned out. he had been murdered in his own home. I mean literally everywhere -. but the thing is they don't know what she did with the baby. where you live. "And then about two hours ago in the stairwell down the hall on the fifth floor. It's just nice to know that you trust me. I wouldn't know what to do with these stories anyway. I sat there and watched his breakdown. and instantly regretted his tone. The Chambers' situation was no longer an isolated case. But surely she would have a body -. He was pleased to see that she gave him a measured look. there had been a murder. It all feels wrong." Kelly's flat tone was rising with what he imagined was her own incredulity. people he would probably recognise if he saw pictures of them. trying not to let his gaze linger on her." Craig swore and gave up waiting to be offered a seat and planted himself next to her on the comforting looking sofa as he tried to process the information. Sometimes he wished he could say exactly what he was thinking and not joke about it." Craig allowed himself to stare at her." "It's how people so close to these things cope. This though You don't think about something bad happening at your front door." he reassured her flippantly." she urged. She's in hospital with injuries and shock. I guess. natural. into her distant amber eyes.it was on the ceiling. It felt good to know she trusted him but he didn't want his statement to seem like a pathetic pass. the corridors and stairs you use. My friend told me that they're all joking about it down the station. was nowhere to be found. his motive for befriending Kelly and offering out his flat to Rachel. Strangely the news story.Chapter Nine 52 'taken'. "Can't all be unrelated. had almost been forgotten against the new information and disappearances. and it doesn't go away. Obviously they don't believe her. Can you believe it? Always count on sick bastards. what you just told me stays with me." She rubbed her face.in this block. "What's going on?" Kelly sat down beside him. It brings it home to you. can't you. maybe reclassifying him in her head? "It's just knowing that this is happening in this building. you know." he offered distantly. calling the estate 'The Camden Town Triangle' and are saying it's 'Zone Two of the Twilight Zone '." "Don't. they had to sedate her. That's a good thing. Craig. You can't tell anyone you heard this from me. "The stories are going to get in print.

He was very nice.. 'I want to be my own woman." Craig sighed.. "At times like this it just makes you glad you don't have kids to worry about.I don't think I would be so willing to suggest them if they did! But. I love dominant women." "Yes boss. Do you feel it helped you?" "Yes. "He obviously hasn't been 'on' her in sometime. nothing happened" she said carefully. He is such a gent. "When this dies down things will return to normal. "No flying crockery.' -.on and off girlfriend. Probably had a row with Kim last night -. Jeremy is lovely. "A blessing? Great. the priest friend of yours came round this morning. "Oh. "Did they let you carry that?" "Craig shot off to go and get Kelly for later." she quickly explained. you protest that. . Kelly just smiled. "Don't worry. ignoring the ever-present pressure of Claire's expectation of something to happen. without a giving away any glimmer of humour.Don't open a door for you and its World-War-bloody-Three. Fancy another cuppa?" she breezed." Rachel announced to Claire." Claire's voice wavered hesitantly before forming words. I want to be the one to call you. I'm gonna check that we have everything we need and make sure there isn't anything left in the van. grunting with his load." "Keep moaning and you will end up a spook!" Rachel threatened playfully. good. it might have had some effect. Last of the true romantics. he's always like this. "You women. Thankfully. because I really 'want' to have to go nine flights down again for something else. 53 "Yes. "Don't worry. we've been using the bloody lift so what are you complaining about? Just drink your tea and get working. cocking a shrewd look in his direction as they both lowered the box to the ground. and I would think with your job you must need to switch off as self-preservation. Hollywood has rather jazzed it up." He growled." Rachel turned. You could have scared the spooks off after I carried twelve boxes up from my van. I want independence. "But." Dave groaned. Rachel led Claire into the kitchen. I have never known a blessing to have any visible effect. I guess -. as the boys came up with their load and then you went to give a hand. unearthly groans and bleeding walls?" Rachel said raising an eyebrow. "I didn't have a chance to tell you earlier. It made Rachel anxious." Craig instantly regretted his comment as he saw the hardness return to Kelly's face. trying not to sound naïve.." Claire gave a dispassionate laugh that seemed to darken her mood as it died in her throat. Dave is the one to have a go at." David entered the flat. Rachel gratefully accepted Claire's aid as she struggled with a hefty metal box crate. "Right then." "Me?" David frowned as he walked in with his own burden of equipment." He surprised himself with his sentimentality and prayed she wouldn't laugh at him.. prodding his chest.Chapter Nine to them. "Anyway. Did his bit and went.

"Plug sockets." David broke in. Claire caught her joyfully. ensuring that she would follow. she was obviously struggling with seeing another stranger roaming over the sanctity of her daughter's room like a burglar in action. "She has been like that since. and like your mum said." she said gently. Rachel saw David fold under the pressure of her questioning innocent face and he turned away and searched out his mug of tea in the kitchen. in the safety of her embrace she twisted to look at Rachel and David. I am here with my friend David. "Hello Amy. puzzled by their presence. Have you had a good day with Daddy?" Amy nodded. Rachel and David are going to put some cameras and things around the house to try and see what funny things have been happening. "They are very good. "I am Rachel. measuring Rachel's character as if it could be read in her face. Maccy D's and the shops?" Claire smiled at Rachel from this moment of normality. you know. we are here to try and find out what is going on. "Can I look at them?" Rachel sank to the floor and sat cross-legged. just reminded me of the police that night. Having distracted Amy from David's intrusion Rachel winked to Claire collusively. "I told you it was intrusive. Amy left her mum's side and began handing them to her one at a time." "It's okay. pressing the atmosphere against her chest. Amy bolted to Claire. and Rachel shook it gently. She looked about the room trying to see what they represented." Claire said distantly." Claire explained protectively. She soon forgot her embarrassment as the front door rattled open and Brian herded Amy through. Rachel nodded grimly before turning her attention to an uncomfortable-looking Amy. Rachel reached out for her hand again." "Take your pick. baby. "Most of the equipment has back-up batteries but a few spare plug sockets wouldn't go a miss.. "What's the green?" Amy sat mimicking Rachel's crossed legs and studied her seriously. but smiled warmly and said hello to her. Amy nodded. Rachel did not waver under those eyes. "Mr Sparky. Amy led Rachel through to her room and entered her bedroom with cautious hesitation as if she was walking into a lion's den. Well. Her face became focussed as her attention was taken to the recurrent green scribbles. "It's okay.." Claire offered. If you show me your room you can help us find the best places to put our equipment so we can watch over you.Chapter Nine Rachel slapped him in retaliation for the deep shade of red that burned up from her chest into her face." Amy's sudden and unexpected answer punctuated the air innocently. but before she took it Amy looked to her mum." She held out her hand and Amy took it. "Park. Rachel had suggested the stake-out and essentially that made Amy bait. Her presence drew the walls in around Rachel. leaving Claire and Rachel silenced in . 54 Amy looked at David and Rachel in turn. crouched down to her height and kissed her forehead. Rachel caught the discomfort in Claire's stare as David pulled furniture away from the walls in his search. "Are those your drawings?" She pointed at sheets of paper on the floor at the end of the bed. Amy hugged herself close to her mother. and Rachel took it as her Cue." she said enthusiastically as she fingered through them and then back to the beginning again.

"Mr Sparky is the name of some invisible friend the girls conjured up a month or two ago. they'd never done anything like that before. her face reddening. Rachel tried to keep her voice calm and even despite the urgency that welled within her and caused her jaw to quiver. clearly puzzled at the ceremonious transaction of trust she was witnessing. following the thick lines of crayon and felt tip that smothered the middle of the tattered page in forming the crude image of a pink girl with brown hair. leaving Amy to decide how to answer. She passed it slowly to Rachel who noticed this action had earned a frown and a smile from her mother. then clambered out and produced a folded sheet of paper. Claire instinctively pulled Amy close to her protectively. Rachel unfolded it carefully and found a scrawled crayon picture caked onto it. or thought she had seen. her voice chilled the air as she read it: "Mr Sparky. but averted her eyes and the pressure she thought they might add to her question." Claire blurted. 55 Rachel's attention passed over Claire's stream of praise of the fact that Amy had spoken. sure that Amy's new words were an epiphany. The cold realisation of what Amy had seen.." . The image was chilling. She glanced to Claire and found the same uncertainty reflected in her eyes. She concentrated on the pictures scrawled around her. Rachel accepted the thick sheet of paper and thanked her with as much awe and reverence as she thought Amy would expect. I thought it was sweet. rushed in upon Rachel faster than she could process. at the centre of the pattern there was a green skull-like head with a vicious black zigzagging crocodile maw and dark eyes. She prepared the tone of her question carefully and precisely as if cornering a wild animal that she feared would bolt and escape should she fail to approach it with enough caution. as if the very picture posed a threat. and looked hesitantly into the darkness. Rachel didn't answer but continued looking over the picture. I had forgotten about it. she stared out of the page with wonky wide eyes. Amy broke free from her mother's grip and cautiously lifted the valance sheet of her bed. grunting with the exertion of an extended reach. words that stiffened the hairs on the nape of her neck. Was this what they were going to be waiting for tonight? "What does it mean?" Claire whined at the verge of disintegrating.Chapter Nine their wake. She put her comforting teddy bear to one side and leaned into the space under the bed. seemingly fearful of what she might find there. possibly realising the disturbing relevance it might have. She was focussed on the actual words Amy had used. Was this what had taken Emily? She asked of herself. Amy pointed at the picture and her crude handwriting that spelled out its name. its overly long arms reaching out for the girl who was sobbing thick blue tears around a circular screaming mouth.What is 'Mr Sparky?'" Rachel delivered her question. "Amy -.. A scribbled round green spiral curled threateningly around her.

The stealthy furtive way Harry made his exit also led Scott to think the black sack was nothing to do with house work. Scott unofficially held keys to save the cost and hassle of calling out a locksmith if Harry lost his set. He chuckled to himself with the thought that the health risk the sign warned of had probably doubled now Harry had gone in there. What was Harry trying to hide? .to the basement. He was sure he had heard movement within the flat. "Fast bastard!" he marvelled quietly. "Alright then.a place the residents were not meant to go. which fuelled Scott's suspicion further. and he was feeling more than a little claustrophobic.' Harry! Scott chastised in his thoughts." he repeated close to the door. as he had predicted it would. Scott frowned and followed. I will call back another time. took a breath to announce himself but only produced a hacking splutter as his throat and lungs were lined by a pungent cloying smell of decay stale urine and faeces from within the flat. like all the doors between Harry's level and the ground floor. There were no lights working in the stairwell and the windows were masked with grilled slits. Scott reached the door and found himself walking in Harry's cruel wake. If Harry had left the stairs Scott would have found a door unbolted. careful not to give away his pursuit. Scott had managed to get him a flat at the Heights in the hope that a smaller property would be easier for him to cope with. often sleeping rough too. He stumbled back on to his feet. After the door closed Scott listened to the rustle of a bag and footfalls heading in the opposite direction. the state of it had forced him into wandering the streets. Although the rank stink suggested the flat needed more than a light clean. casting thick ghostly bands of light onto each landing. Scott stifled a cough to clear his throat of the nauseating odour and eyed the large printed sign on the door: 'PLEASE USE OTHER STAIRCASE." Scott headed to the end of the corridor and waited round the corner out of sight.Chapter Ten 56 Chapter Ten Scott Bray knocked at Harry's door. yet again. he was starting to not like this. He eased the door open. He knelt before the door and levered the letter box open. The chute for the rubbish was in the ground floor lobby and Scott was sure there wouldn't be access to the rubbish storage area in the basement -. He peered over the banisters and down into the darkness. Nausea gripped him as the rank smell reached down into his guts forcing him to swallow stirred-up bile. and he recoiled sharply. Harry had let his old house fall into a squalid condition. Seven floors down he thought Harry might turn out of the stairwell into the lobby but. Harry definitely had something to hide. maybe all Harry needed was home help. Scott retched and slumped onto his generous posterior. Five minutes passed before he heard Harry's door creak open. That was not a good sign. your social worker. "Harry? It's Scott. It now looked like a care home would be the next step. Harry walked past the lift doors and slipped through the fire escape at the end of the corridor. He leaned over the banister and was surprised to see Harry was already two floors down. His lips brushed the cold sticky paintwork. He surmised that Harry must have gone further down -. Scott padded after him. scrubbing his mouth with his sleeve as he thought about the vile residue that might be lurking there on the grubby door. He waited until he thought Harry would be at the lift then stepped out and saw Harry walking away from him. THIS DOOR TO BE KEPT SHUT AND LOCKED AT ALL TIMES DUE TO THE HEALTH & SAFETY RISK. He wondered where Harry was going with his rubbish sack. Rotting flesh. they each had thick bolts drawn across them from inside the stairwell to stop people from disregarding the health and safety notice. Although he had used it to get past the lobby door he would be infringing on Harry's privacy if he used it to check on Harry in his flat. perhaps the bin bag meant Harry was attempting to tidy the place. He screwed his nose up against the smell that was more than the ammonia of urine and the copper of stale faeces. dragging a handkerchief from his pocket to his mouth to stifle whooping coughs as his body tried to disperse the evil from his throat. hunched around a weighty black bin bag that he cradled in his arms.

some of the fluorescent tubes blinked and flickered creating a gentle strobe effect in their need to be changed. and that the hole was recent. knowing there was no other place in the room Harry could have gone. He found himself in a large room. The floor was cluttered with debris and what seemed to be cremated furniture. clutching at his fleeting courage. The shelves carried dusty mildewed boxes. On the other side of the shelving was a double doorway with its heavy metal doors flung open wide into the space beyond. He could wait for Harry upstairs. Shadows danced and leapt in the air from the torches beam like scattering bats. The fluids were gently lapping the sides of the bottles that contained them. The last landing was below ground level with no slit windows to cast any light. as if it had been dragged aside. In the gloom ahead of him Scott could see one of the lockers was pulled out from the wall at an angle. Scott peered behind the shelving into a wall of blackness. suggesting that this was a new addition to the room. Scott rationalised that his minor trespass would be wavered considering he was on Council business. Scott scanned the shelves and was relieved to find a club-like torch. The basement was large and gloomily lit by emergency lights. They had only recently been disturbed. securing the supplies and tools required in maintaining the building.the flat was Harry's last chance of independence. abandoned tools and several bottles of cleaning fluids. the walls charred and blackened with thick soot while damp mould filled any crevice and corner. it was his duty -.' Scott caught the door and hesitantly pulled it wide and considered the consequences of disobeying the sign. There was a large hole in one wall and before it there was a large pickaxe half-buried in rubble but untouched by dust or the shroud of soot from the fire. to do his best by him. He decided he would have to catch Harry in whatever odd activities he was doing if he was to get any idea of how he was living. . Scott had to ensure that Harry could integrate and cope alone. It was best to see what Harry was up to. It identified itself by a sign containing bold letters: 'BASEMENT. The room was a black hole of melted shelving units and twisted carnage. a brown object barely discernable from the darkness. His mind turned the tables on his determination. Scott found the light switch in the murkiness but decided the main lights would ruin his attempt at stealthy discretion. Scott soft footed after Harry until he reached a large door that was slowly drifting closed on its automatic arm. He angled the torch away from his face. and what lighting might have been in place didn't appear to be working. It was only darkness after all. The shops having been burnt out about a decade or so ago.Chapter Ten 57 Scott swallowed his crawling uncertainties and continued to follow Harry down. The hole was over a metre round and where the concrete had been chipped and cracked with the axe. its fresh grey and chiselled white exposure resembled teeth around the large black mouth. Scott neared it cautiously. Scott took the banister in his hand and walked carefully down into the graduating gloom until he reached the all-consuming blackness of the landing. Before he could turn on his heels he hesitated. moving up and down like a thick brown tongue hungrily writhing in the black maw. blinking away the painful white ghost of light lodged in his eyes. snatching at the dim light in their movement. Despite Scott's help Harry resented his visits so he couldn't rely on Harry for honesty. accompanied by the rustling of a bag. STRICTLY NO UNAUTHORIZED ADMITTANCE. He snapped it on and blinded himself momentarily. There was movement within. Scott approached the hole warily. never reopening. He was a stubborn old bugger but he had a little-boy-lost look about him that made Scott want to look out for him. The lockers seemed to cover a disused doorway. Scott shone the torch into the gap and squeezed himself in. The dim light gave vague definition to the large room and the chain link lockers that ran the walls. The lifts were to his right and directly ahead of him on the far wall was another door leading to the main stairwell that the residents used. Scott surmised that it was one of the basements for the shops in the parade within the base of the high-rise.

the crust flaking as his face erupted in an angrily startled sneer. Craig asked if he was okay but received no reply." Craig kicked off his trainers in the hall. "Chocolate? I believe that is the major food group I purchased: I have caramel and chocolate.. Both turned sharply in unison as Harry crashed out of the fire door at the end of the corridor." he called to David and Rachel in his lounge. his attention was drawn to the refuse sack that Harry was shaking vigorously despite being disturbed. panting and jogging shabbily to his own door beside Craig's. Scott picked out the details of the material with the torch and found it was a pair of trousers topped with a large black tail coat. She was worried. Kelly walked by Craig's side from the lift towards his flat. He tracked the thin frame that held the items of clothing together and was met by the consuming empty sockets of a blanched white skull. any time. Miss Mason. She shook her head frowning and laughing in return and they both dismissed the encounter. landing on a larger pile of scavenged flesh.. The grim skull grinned mockingly and inanely through a misaligned jaw. The torch ignited the tongue-shape and lit Harry up like a flare. thanks for telling me. "There was a Scott something looking for you. Having only ever seen him in a slow meditative dawdle they both looked at each other in a mixture of surprise and bafflement at Harry's haste. crowned with a black top hat draped with matching black crepe. Sorry about the wait for munchies. Scott started and the beam bounced around the hole and strobed aspects of the room into view. his face snapped round and he snarled viciously through a mask of grease and grime. Harry turned and bolted while Scott coughed on bile as the stench of the rancid meat hit the back of his throat and choked him." Kelly watched as Craig breezed into the lounge and broke Rachel from a serious stare at nothing. The maggots squirmed and the flies roared as the rain of dead meat fell through the air onto black fabric." Craig shot Kelly a wry smile. half in chase and half in retreat from what he had seen. Scott glimpsed something behind Harry in a crater. "Oh. Craig gestured for Kelly to go ahead of him into the flat and he closed the door behind them." Craig shook the bags in the air. Since Rachel had come back from the Chambers Kelly had watched her drift in and out of what appeared to be very distracting thoughts.. before finishing in an exaggerated common swagger. and the best: Chocolate and hazelnut. trying to understand what he had walked into and what responsibility Harry might have for the body. She took one of his two shopping laden bags while he rooted in his pocket to get his key. but only ever said she was okay if Kelly asked. a gelatinous mass that he couldn't identify. The introspection gone.' -.must be lots of people planning a long night ghost hunting and nibbles tonight. Scott broke into a run.No problem Harry. "'Really? Oh." Craig started in a clipped posh voice. Completely stripped of flesh the light reflected off the polished yellowy bone. burning the overexposed image of the ghostly face into his mind. The beam of light darted to chunks and slithers of putrefying flesh and carcasses that fell and flopped to the ground from the bag. mint-chocolate. a social worker. "But being that my flat has the same layout to yours it aint worth it... Craig. Unable to formulate words to address the scene he instinctively grabbed Harry and yanked him roughly out of the hole. before he could dwell on the strange shape he was sure was writhing or pulsating.." Harry dived into his flat and slammed the door. "Hi kids. At the hem of the trouser legs he saw shoes. "We're home. "I would give you the tour. and chocolate and chocolate for . "I hope you have chocolate!" Rachel chirped enthusiastically. Harry stumbled back into the main room with him and Scott sent the beam of light back to the mound of rank meat which rested on the skeleton dressed as an undertaker. there was a big queue down the shops -.Chapter Ten 58 Scott leaned closer and shone the torch into the void. but seemed to radiate a faint green glow.

but then she couldn't tell Rachel and David about the other disappearances. He staggered through the fire door and panted to Harry's flat. 59 Kelly found herself abandoned in Craig's lounge. his fingers sliding in the grease that coated his face.." "Right then.. circling around him.signal any cold spots. It stared at the man-creature that answered to the name of Harry. . but she had been busy helping move equipment to take in the new environment properly. and a few other tricks.hopefully without broadcasting it to every TV in the building. He rattled the door-knocker.. We have other sensors for EM (sorry. "Looks like mission control on a bad day in here. Harry stood in his kitchen pacing.. his heart pounding in his throat. hot spots. but basically I have set cameras up in every room of the flat except the toilet and the master bedroom." Kelly would have like him to smirk or wink to dispel his crudeness but he didn't. lost its ability to strike back at the intruder through Harry. we want to leave them some place to go and have 'rumpy and dumpy' in privacy. not quite remembering the purposes of the individual boxes. Then we got all these little boxes of tricks. That was if they would actually catch something.. "It's all pretty technical." Rachel marched him through to the kitchen opposite the lounge and helped him unpack and make the first of many mugs of tea for the night. Harry's shock of being discovered had fractured his thoughts and It had lost its control. Harry could be in a lot more trouble than Scott could deal with. She had been there earlier after Craig had called in to walk her round.. They had been introduced earlier over a tangled mess of cables. It was hard to get an idea of what the room would normally look like with the a bank of uniform monitors on the coffee table and thick wires trailing to what seemed to be a small transmitter aerial. Now it wasn't just the Chamber's that were affected she could see even less point to this whole exercise. the skeleton. This isn't Big Brother. the room had a student feel to it but seemed homely. This little baby triggers when there is large movement and we have more sensitive ones for the lounge and kitchen which will be unused in the night. the rush of blood coursing through his veins making a hollow sound in his head. This one detects air movement or displacement to check for small movements or breezes. All the cameras have switchable or alternative spectrums like thermal and infra red as we are doing dark filming. Tears welled in his eyes as he desperately tried to regain control of his thoughts and think what had been happening to him. the meat.. Scott lumbered up the last few steps. knowing that this agitated him further. the scavenging of bin bags." David looked up at her.. His mind focused on his actions with a clarity he hadn't experienced for weeks. and what the corpse was doing hidden in the basement. inside his mind.Chapter Ten the purists among us. but impressed at the technical side. There were two sofas draped with tie-dyed and Celtic patterned throw-overs and scattered with mismatched cushions.. electro magnetic fields). "The images all get transmitted to this receiver -. Too weak to attack directly. Despite that Kelly still couldn't quite work out if she could bring herself to believe in 'ghosts'. the body. It needed Harry: Needed to get back inside him. They measure temperature of the air -. I'm with the boy with the chocolate.. Scott's thoughts tumbled like a rock slide in his head as his mind tried to figure out what Harry had been doing with all the rotten flesh. but decided not to wait for Harry to ignore him. Scott produced the key for Harry's flat and rammed it home. the strange husk that had gradually become moist and alive with his visits and deliveries of rancid meat. It really wasn't all just sitting in the dark eagle-eyed in the hope of catching something elusive. beside that there were five other smaller boxes of varying shades of grey and different sizes with flashing LED's and displays with quivering metronome needles." Kelly took it all in. 'Why? Why did he do it?' He knuckled his forehead. It had lost control of Harry in the basement. It all lurched at him from the foggy dream world that had somehow separated him from what he had been doing. She couldn't work out whether he was humourless or he had a Jack Dee deadpan face.

he gagged on his own bile as his gut rejected the atmosphere dragged into his stomach by his heavy breaths. The beef smelt good.. instead it gargled from his exposed larynx in a prolonged stridor from his slashed windpipe filling with blood like a submerged snorkel. "To carve the roast.. He dropped it onto the work-top in fright. The voice carried him off to a time before the forgetfulness and the apathy for his own life and his surroundings." the voice whispered -. which looked strangely the size of half a cow. In that moment within his panic he knew something was wrong. speaking to him again. He was glad to be home again. He wasn't being sick. Scott fell against the door drowning in himself." Harry felt her smile although he couldn't see her. Harry looked to the table and the freshly sliced hulk of Beef. Suddenly Harry filled his vision and he was startled by a flash of silver between them. Deirdra's voice. Hot liquid gushed onto his hands before he could reach his mouth. bubbling blood sprayed from his lips and throat as his lungs pumped for air. she would probably be wearing her housecoat that she usually donned for cooking. "Pick up the knife. Deirdra stood behind him. Harry" she asked. Waste not. She would wake him. That's it.Chapter Ten 60 The focus of Harry's mind shattered with the sound of the door-knocker rattling.. He could feel the soft voice teasing at his mind again. to the large carving knife. it wasn't vomit. want not Harry. It didn't seem to matter that she had died ten long years ago. The key noisily chewed into the door and it flew open. his loving wife's voice. Gently the colour in his vision began to fade into blackness and the grim room was no more. Another glint of silver flashed as Harry punched into Scott's stomach. Rasping for breath. Mouth-watering. and in his Sunday suit he would head to the kitchen following the aroma of chicken or beef. "Now. with his wife. We can portion it for later. Scott fell into the room panting. before he forgot how to live like a human and started living like an animal. far too large for them to get through alone. . "Section the meat. Cut right to the bone. It would be a Sunday if she was asking him to do that ritual. He tried to scream but his voice didn't come from his lips. having the perfect Sunday afternoon..Deirdra's voice. Harry looked down. scavenging and foraging for food. Just that she was there with him." she breathed. For a moment he slipped into the past. Scott gagged again as his throat closed in reaction to something hard striking his neck. reaching a blinding white hot zenith until something gave up in his head so the only sensation was Harry's fist kneading his belly roughly as he rummaged the wide flat knife inside him. They would have been to church and he would have just woken from a light afternoon sleep in his armchair in the lounge of his home. Instinctively his hands leapt to his mouth to stifle an expected surge of vomit. His crimson covered hands suspended him within a sickeningly enlightened moment. the smell of bodily waste and decay crammed his nose and squirmed in his belly as he gulped down sickening mouthfuls of vile air in his exertion. before he started thinking like a child lost without love. His bloodied fingers grasped the door-frame behind him for support but failed to gain purchase. Darkness closed in around his vision as the nerves in his mouth and lips told him nothing had passed that way. startled to find his arm had moved without his volition and had grasped a large carving knife. A spike of pain burned intensely in his guts. He knew she was there for she had talked him through the slices he had just made.

Rachel's eyes leapt back to the hand that now bore a rune. she prepared a smile for whoever stood in her way but her expression migrated into a puzzled frown as she saw the figure was holding out a palm as if expecting payment to pass. staring back at her with crystal blue eyes set in deeply age-engraved sockets..Chapter Eleven 61 Chapter Eleven Rachel took hold of the steaming mugs of hot chocolate and headed from the kitchen. "I think I'll keep this one unless you want to share the joy?" Rachel grinned back at her and dragged her large bag to her side. She accepted Kelly's thanks as she pulled the cardigan round her more comfortably. but saw only the lounge and Kelly waiting expectantly for her drink with a puzzled look at Rachel's hesitation. "I feel like a teenager. no. guided by the light of the lounge ahead." Kelly giggled conspiratorially. and summoned a dismissive smile against Kelly's questioning looks. the rune of protection she had seen within the mosaic in the lobby. Shocked. revealing the engraving of the rune changed to that of the interlocking chevrons of the 'Jera' rune: The rune of the harvest. She approached Craig's lounge and stopped abruptly as the light was obstructed by someone in the doorway. "Oh. beside him Craig slept lightly with his head slowly sliding towards David's shoulder. . Rachel settled on the floor next to Kelly and joined her in leaning up against the sofa before the coffee table and its monitors opposite Craig and David. "I will be okay. He had gone." Rachel settled again. She shivered. Rachel gathered her concentration that had been scattered by the old man. It had been four hours since they had found themselves together. I have more fat to insulate me than you have." Rachel said rolling her eyes in playful innocence as a cover for her embarrassment. She expected it to be David or Craig and prepared to dismiss the playful gesture. The twig-like fingers wrapped closed around the tablet then reopened again in one smooth motion. bearing a crown-like coronet of weaved mistletoe and a wispy pointed tongue of white beard that flicked out from the hood. trying to hide what were drinking. walking carefully with her load in the gloomy hallway. "Is this cold snap the first of tonight's spooky goings on or do you think Craig is having trouble paying his heating?" she whispered. "Lovely couple aren't they." Kelly returned Rachel's drink then picked a bottle of dark rum and laced her own drink. Seeking distraction from the startling apparition Rachel motioned with her head to Craig and David who sat on the second sofa. There had been a smattering of conversation within the group. Rachel laughed and she draped her own thick woolly cardigan over Kelly's shoulder. her eyes fixed on the steaming liquid that lapped close to spilling over the rim of the mugs. David's head was resting at an unnatural angle on the back of the sofa his mouth agape with shallow breaths that occasionally snorted. His face was chiselled from the darkness of the hood like a pale withered cadaver. She looked back to the face of the old man for answers to the symbolism.. The figure was in a cowl of dark roughly woven robes. Rachel cupped the hot mug in her hands and saw Kelly wince at a sip from her own mug. that would be mine. one after the other on the table in front of them. "Pick your poison. then awkward moments of quiet. watching her shift under the gesture with obvious awkwardness. "What is in this?" "Oh. She reached in several times and lined up three miniature bottles of alcohol." Kelly stopped her in mock indignation." Kelly smiled.

Sickeningly Rachel realised she had unknowingly prepared a trap for a monster -. blurry -. you feel them. but Rachel couldn't make that leap between what she understood of the paranormal and what she understood as fiction.Chapter Eleven Kelly suddenly leaned closer to the screen that displayed the Chambers lounge and stabbed a finger at a luminous dot drifting through the air. "Well that was very leading" Rachel cast her hand across all the equipment. I couldn't possibly tell you who the victim was or where it had happened. you don't just see them. even to the point of experiencing their memories and thoughts. but I saw the act through him and all I could feel was his hate and loathing in that moment. the troubled conclusion of a grieving mother desperate for answers. if they speak.using Amy as bait. all this technology and nights like this are for people like you: The sceptics." She broke her look and paused thoughtfully over her mug. everywhere. And possibly a way of escaping suspicion? No that was too calculated." "Without starting on the subject of the nature of evil. "Maybe if it was seen on Most Haunted they might be considering it as an orb. That crayon creature had haunted Rachel ever since with the possibilities it could represent." "You mean 'evil' ghosts. in spirit form a predominant emotion or aspect of character will be all that remains of a person's essence. or another living person. "I don't need all this to believe what I see every day. that's all that was left of him. It's a spec of dust. it's almost as if your ears have been bypassed and they are speaking in to you. "So is that an orb then?" 62 "No. Sometimes." "You mean you can partly see through them?" "It's more than that.something to get excited about. yes you get bad ghosts. I saw the spirit of a murderer once. You can feel the intense . "Bullies. none of them have resembled specs of dust. "There are monsters. "All this would be a lot of effort if I didn't believe in the possibility of some paranormal activity. I have never encountered anything paranormal and nor has anyone I know. It's quite obvious you don't believe. I used to be scared of monsters -. I think it's the sensitivity of these modern cameras to light that causes the problem as it catches the light reflected by dust.like a memory where detail seems evasive. I don't think I am going out on a limb when I say that everybody has good and bad aspects of their personality." "You truly believe there is something ghostly in their flat though?" Kelly reinforced bluntly. As far as I know orbs have only been found since digital cameras have been around. before then ghost pictures on 35mm film used to be of figures. "Sometimes they stay monsters. Of all the spirits I have seen in my time." she paused trying to shake free of the beast and the dark thoughts it used to consume her. as it wouldn't lead to evidence to support Claire's belief of what had happened to little Emily. Yes there was a presence. murderers." Kelly looked disappointed with the answer. That can remain the same in spirit. Up until that defining moment Rachel thought the investigation was an exercise in futility. In the same way that a picture can fade over time leaving only trace images." she took a deep drag of air with the difficulty of explaining. When they die. rapists. or more kindly. her thoughts gripping her throat with the long fingers of the creature within the drawing. you just know what they are thinking or saying. Rachel rested her mug on her knee and held it there and considered whether she had already seen a crude representation of a monster in Amy's precious drawing. but not by me or anyone that has genuine experiences with spirits.I just guess I grew up and they went away. dear. or they can seem faded. More than that though. a powerful one." She shrugged." Rachel said grimly. Your head fills with words and you know." "I've never had to believe in them. "They can look solid like you or I. You understand when I see a spirit it's not always like seeing you. people -.

or die and the spirit is left behind: alone. hallucinations. As if they see the house as it was when they lived there." Rachel cupped the hot drink to her lips before carrying on her hushed explanations." "Would they? As I said opinion is dictated by the philosophy that you ascribe to." "How can they interact with things that aren't there anymore?" "Maybe the spirits memory of the past shapes their spiritual world. only a very few people seem to be able to see ghosts. there are photographs and films that have captured strange apparitions and phenomenon so there is a wealth of evidence to support the existence of things happening that we can't currently understand or explain. I hardly think hiding ornaments or moving furniture around is evil intent. He was shouting and screaming at the top of his voice. But. Yes. If the spirits are aware of us and our world they might not be able to understand what's happened or why their house has changed or why there are people and different belongings in their house.. Their friends or relatives eventually leave. spiteful at the worst. a sceptic. they carry on as they had. and flashes of his crime would cut in and out of my consciousness. depending upon whether you ask a person of religious faith. Science dominates now. But it isn't usually the action of a spirit that's frightening." "Yeah. Then new people move in. using doors and moving furniture that might not be there anymore. they carry on unaware of us. or sadness that they have had to leave. "Then the trouble starts. They can use your emotions to paint a picture of how they feel so you often experience their feelings." Rachel's words lingered on her lips like a bad taste as she drifted into uncomfortable memories "Nasty. right?" "That's an interpretation. "Yes." "Occasionally. when I eventually saw him he was pacing in all different directions like a caged animal and he was all blurred and smudged and parts of him moved and shuddered at unnatural speeds.. sounding hopeful. So would you say that most of them are the lonely benign kind?" She said. . nonsense. Some spirits seem to get anchored to certain places or rooms. Or because they are cut off from their loved ones they can feel loneliness. he hated people being in 'his' house. a new-ager.their philosophy for understanding the world will govern their interpretation of their experience. but it can't be conclusive evidence or opinions and the willingness to believe would have changed. Imagine how disorientating or frightening that might be?" "Hence the disturbance?" "They tend to be mischievous more than anything.Chapter Eleven 63 love they have for those they have left behind. I hated that. Maybe spirits don't have enough potency or energy to engage with the world of the living to have any serious impact on us. Whatever ghosts are countless people have had experiences they can't explain. psychic imprints." Kelly grimaced. residue of biological energy. so the spirit has to watch their families living their lives completely oblivious to them. don't worry. Souls. Of course." "And with the killer?" "I experienced his primal feelings as I said. Some spirits just can't leave the living they have left behind. Rachel laughed. not seeming to know they are dead. To feel his bile and hate for life was sickening. psychologist or an open-minded scientist -. it's the fear of things that upset our general consensus of understanding. "But ghosts are souls.

trying to understand electricity. (because it fits what we already know of human biology and chemistry) is that ghosts are a residue of the energy that we all have inside us. as if her mind had suddenly realised she was going along with it and switched into denial. Afterlife! If there is one I will come back and tell you about that when or if I get there." They both laughed and turned to the soft light from the monitors that flickered ahead of them. "Then we get onto the biggy don't we." Kelly had a look of concentration her face like that of a child that had just been captivated by a bed-time story. They might think it magic or witchcraft." "So you think there might be a scientific explanation for ghosts?" "Quite." "I hope they are. Our energies. "I hope for them that they go wherever their faith sends them. It's just that science hasn't reached a level where such phenomenon can be studied or understood.. They had two views of every room in the Chambers flat.Chapter Eleven 64 which is a good thing in my opinion." Kelly shrugged. "How do you explain ghosts then?" "I like to keep an open mind. Scientific arrogance. "Yes. "Dissipate? And where do you think that energy go?" She said with a renewed scepticism edging her voice. .. It will make it easier for me to accept any explanations when this phenomenon is finally understood. or whatever their equivalent of a scientist might have been." "Peaceful dreams. more good has come out of science than has ever come out of religion. not very romantic is it. if something defies science's current level of understanding then its possibility is dismissed or denied. Her sleeping face filled the screen as the close up settled on her. giving us our appearance. or like the living they might find it difficult to let go of the past and are haunted by the experiences they had in life. "She's a cutie.. the spirits like to be somewhere familiar and around the people they love. Rachel operated the zoom on Amy. She looks so peaceful. or yours. And just like when they were living. Not that I think that will happen in my lifetime. It's like a medieval alchemist. and they replay those events over and over as we do now in our heads. except the parents' bedroom and the bathroom." Rachel caught her forlorn gaze at the monitor. while the other showed the green screen of infrared. so their energy might be focussed on homes or workplaces and around the people they have left behind. memory and personality in the spirit world. and they watched her as she lazily brushed hair away from her eyes in her sleep. This energy might linger for a long time or it might dissipate over time. One monitor showed normal view. The theory that I like and that I like to think is most probable. it's when science tries to explain everything from our current level of understanding that I have an issue." Rachel whispered broodily." Rachel shrugged. "You don't have children?" she skirted cautiously." "So ghosts are like radiation?" Rachel turned her mouth down at the corners in an impression of sadness. chemical and psychic make us who we are in the spirit world. However. biological. "I know..

seeing the pitch-black normal feed. I was wrong. She used the joystick to move the camera out from the close up on Amy to view the rest of the room. . she turned to the revealing infra-red screens that replaced the darkness with a grainy green image. yes. "Okay. "How about Mr Right." "As long as you haven't changed so much and become Mrs Wrong for any Mr Right that comes along." "So what about you?" she deflected. "Oh.. shifting her eyes from the sleeping girl to the surface of her drink.nothing to explain the lamp now being on. not daring to take her eyes from the image. thick with sadness. "Sounds sad.. nor any movement or shadow -. I think we both have a sad story to tell." "Bastard. Then she operated the camera in the lounge and made it pan 360 degrees.. "Mr Right. blow my reassuring advice out of the water!" She took a deep breath. Kelly caught Rachel's operating arm and jerked the camera's attention back to Amy who was now sitting up in bed scanning the darkness. Amy was still asleep. "That was a long time ago. There was no one in the lounge to have turned on the lamp.Chapter Eleven Kelly smiled grimly. Leaving you with a kid. but Rachel was instantly distracted by the monitor: "Do you see that?" Staring at the screen she reached out with her drink for where she hoped the table was. her voice sounded choked. We saw each other from time to time but the situation gradually made meeting up awkward. It turned out that neither of us could give each other what we wanted. remembering how Malcolm had found himself the family that Rachel had been unable to provide. and Rachel had found Helen." Kelly didn't probe further.." "Not met the right man yet?" "Hmmm. and the door from the lounge into the master bedroom was still shut. Rachel turned her attention to Amy's bedroom monitors. The family slept on unaware of the strange activity. You don't see your Mr Wrong anymore?" She shook her head." Kelly looked away and Rachel saw that she had hit a nerve. turned into Mr Wrong and he left." Rachel spoke kindly. "He wouldn't know me now. "No. overexposing an area of the light sensitive infra-red feed. afraid not. I have changed a lot since then. first possible sign of activity. "There you go. "Kids?" "Once." 65 Rachel sympathetically patted Kelly's hand that supported her upright where she sat. There didn't seem to be anyone else on the monitors.. "The lamp has just come on in the lounge." Rachel whispered pointing to the lamp that burned like a flare on the green screen. Classic sign!" she stated excitedly and with a measure of triumph." Rachel answered. her iris's glowing like floating bright white orbs in the hazy green infra-red image. then?" Rachel's spirit lifted slightly and a dry smile drew across her lips." Rachel nodded. The hairs on her neck prickled. Thought I had." "Don't judge him.. "There's a Mr Right out there for everyone.

briefly blotting out the view on the screen. a level of fear Rachel never thought she would hear from a child: The fear of death. . There was a sound of susurration from the speakers that built into a roar of a thousand tormented infants. Amy reacted to the noise in her room by swinging her legs over the side of the bed and diving out from under the covers seconds before a bright light overexposed the green infra-red screen with its intensity. The noise broke down into a lancing squeal of static feedback.Chapter Eleven Eyes wide and burning with fear. The normal feed monitor showed a burst of bright green light glaring out of the darkness of the room. 66 A soft voice crackled shakily through the tinny speakers. "Mr Sparky's coming!" It was a voice choked with terror.

he opened and closed his eyes in exaggerated blinks and lay motionless for a few seconds. offering a ground level view of the room before the camera adjusted and used the motion sensor to focus back on the disturbance in the room. The blackness that surrounded him shifted in the wake of an undefined shape that snaked past him. The hall motion detector wailed. The lounge motion detector sprang into life. He watched David smacking away the taste of sleep from his lips and roughly shoving his glasses on as he lurched forward to the bank of monitors and controls. David cursed trying to keep up with the multiple reactions of his equipment and quickly silenced the sounds of the hallway and lounge motion detectors that jarred their nerves. activated by Amy's flight from her room. grating the air in a shrill monotone before Amy's arrival could trigger it. The parent's bedroom door filled the screen as the creaking of stressed wood crackled and groaned through the speaker. one he knew would claim him for hours. He pulled away and for a moment he was sure it screamed with a multitude of infantile voices. At the zenith of the blaze of light the sound was abruptly stopped. looking about her warily as the unearthly sound started again. Sleep tugged at him as he swam after the shape. but the voices faltered and merged and became one monotonous sound. pulling him into a descent towards a deeper rest. clearly struggling to keep up with the action unfolding on the monitors. A shape that. the high-pitched whining noise that had first infringed on his physical senses. The camera panned toward the ceiling in search of the stirring in the air that had activated it. the emptiness of his unconscious world as he balanced on the brink of waking. A noise disturbed him. Amy scrambled hurriedly across the floor sobbing and whining. The camera attempted to track her but she overtook its slowly panning lens. Amy stood in full view. haunting him from the edge of his perception. In that brief moment of transition into the waking world an anonymous spike of anger lashed out from within his dream world in frustration that Craig had woken. focussing in on the source of the sound. The ghostly green tendril faded and his eyes fluttered open and his dream world collapsed. It stayed ahead of his search. Thuds from the parent's room sounded like distant thunder as Brian and Claire called desperately for Amy and hammered at the door that refused them access to their screaming daughter. He became aware of the lack of dreams. The noise built to a howl over the speakers. switching off the sharp noise of the bedroom motion detector with trembling hands. clipping the camera in her haste.Chapter Twelve 67 Chapter Twelve Craig struggled in the depths of sleep. The motion sensors sounded the high-pitched wail that had pulled Craig from sleep. causing the picture to flicker and shudder as the camera staggered on its tripod. On one of the green infra-red screens Amy rounded the corner into the lounge. writhing slowly. Craig dived down beside Kelly at the monitor while David blearily began examining the equipment. The image rolled and broke up as Amy crashed into the camera and it fell roughly onto its side. an entropic pattern barely distinguished from the void around him. The picture restored itself. showing the grainy green image of the beds blankets and pillows tumbling back onto the bed as if swept up and dropped by an unseen force. still framed by the lens. disrupted his slumber. The camera view in Amy's room panned automatically to face the disturbance and movement. the voices Craig recognised from his sleep. "Where are the parents? What are they doing?" Kelly raced urgently. It was as if the light was trying to lead him to that state. as he focussed on it. caught between the commands of its . luring him back to sleep. The lounge sound sensor registered a noise and directed the camera. became a hazy green ribbon of diffused light. Craig followed as he tuned into the rising anxiety within the room. As quick as it appeared the light was gone and the infra red view was restored. The camera jerked. her hair wild around her face in an impossible gale.

A tide of flesh moving relentlessly inward. but not yet sated -. strip by strip. Albert Taylor. the echoing shrill scream chasing up the stairwells and along corridors. 68 A flash of bright light blanched the infra-red camera's transmission and Craig's eyes flicked to the monitor with the normal view. hauntingly teasing those that heard it. The cadaver of carcasses lurched violently into a sitting position. The dull but energetic light cast the thick chips and carved teeth around the mouth of the hole in soft light and shadow. Amy didn't appear in any of the views.not yet ready. wrapping his exposed skeleton. spreading in to cover his wrists. and channelled that part of itself into the empty eye sockets. before desperately returning to the picture of the lounge. The ragged white and dark meats reached his bones. "Where's she gone? -. The light receded as suddenly as it had appeared and Amy's feet jerked up out of sight with it. carried by the writhing bodies of the maggot's as they burrowed into the meat in gluttonous feasting. The mound of rancid meat and flesh within began to move slug-like across the ground.. Slither by slither. With the absence of any movement the cameras stare was drawn to the parent's bedroom door by the sound of Claire and Brian pounding frantically on the wood and calling with increasing desperation and futility for their daughter. The carcasses and waste crossed the uneven scorched ground and rubble towards the skeletal remains of the undertaker. Amy recoiled from the brilliant light. Tendrils of decomposing flesh took hold of the entire skeleton. Each of them glanced from monitor to monitor. her lower legs and ankles filling the screen. as if the camera had entered into the eerily calm eye of a storm. stepping closer to the lens of the camera that rested on the floor behind her. In the basement the black hole glowed with a dim throbbing green.Chapter Twelve sound and motion sensors. giving the impression of movement that made it appear the hole was gnawing at the blackness within. crawling and weaving. filling the cracks of his finger joints.Where's she gone!" Kelly gasped hysterically. Part Two: The Threat Grows . Its screech cut the air like ragged glass. sliding up the shafts of his legs. Its jaw wrenched open crudely as an inhuman scream howled out from its maggot ridden lips. knitting together through his ribs and curling around the spine like some grotesque crawling ivy. It watched from the corner of the room feeling stronger from its weeks of feeding. and knees. A cry of new life from the darkness in the depths of the concrete tower.. Amy's scream joined the cries that haunted the influx of rushing air and then all sound ended with the dying light. It allowed part of its consciousness to divide and brake away in a crude shape of light that rushed forward to the ragged blob of congealed fats and festering meats that clung to the skull. it crawled in its decay.

so deep that he had thought he wouldn't find his way out. The images on the monitors were shaky and unidentifiable. "That's okay. dimly aware of the uncomfortable hospital bed and his surroundings. He could hear a heavy Jamaican accent mumbling and another very polite voice explaining something in response. Probably a nurse. footsteps and voices. but the idea that she might class him as a friend warmed him. resting his eyes but guarded against sleep. "The guy from The Heights? He mentioned a Kelly. she tells me there's been some weird stuff going on. I was hoping I could see him. and Rachel and Kelly's panic was a contagion. aware that he only needed to flick open his eyes to wake. I do agency work at one of the flats in that block. Then there were two female voices. "The ones from The Heights tend to stick in my memory at the moment." "Craig -. clear but distant from him. it's Zoe.I don't remember his surname. but the slumber was comforting and he recognised the situation playing out around him. That sleep had been deep -. the sobbing cries and angry shouts at pain. They barely knew each but here they were. Only pulling your leg. I wouldn't want to be living there at the moment" "I know -. We have had a few through our doors. listening to the sounds of the hospital. I'm not on duty but a friend of mine is here somewhere. "It's K" "Kelly -. the sleep that drained out of him was strangely more wholesome and satisfying than the one he had back at his flat before the disturbance of the monitors had roused him. Zoe Sampson -." It was Kelly. Craig took comfort that this replay was only his subconscious trying to make sense of the night. He drifted from sleep." "Sorry. it's Kylie isn't?" "Kylie?" Kelly laughed and Craig found himself smiling with her.Chapter Thirteen 69 Chapter Thirteen Craig drifted from the depths of sleep and became lucid mid-dream. I take an old guy out and about for a bit of respite for his wife. He lay there in his curtained cubicle with nothing to look at.like it says on my badge." 'Friend'? It was what she needed to describe him as. Although the dream would have inevitably become a nightmare as the evening had. bed wheels squeaking past his cubicle." "Listen. Something had needed him to stay." . Guess that's why I won't make detective. Something hadn't wanted him to leave.I live in the same building. Before he knew what he was responding to he was acting on the rush in his blood and his jack hammering heart. all he knew was that Amy was in trouble.I know." That jarred Craig. "It's Chloe isn't it?" "Close. He filtered through the voices trying to tune into a conversation.

" Craig pretended not to notice her sudden discomfort with the familiarity of the gesture as she tentatively withdrew her touch.. Kelly stepped into the nurse's place as she moved away to jot some notes on some paperwork on the bedside unit. God. tipping him a wink.. She was just. A heroic nob I guess though." She confessed shamefully." "Has there been any news?" Kelly sat on the bed. "I didn't realise you cut your head. "You nob. hugging herself against the gutting guilt." He greeted Kelly feebly. They relocated it -." He beamed and sat the bag of chips on his lap.." The curtain parted. "Oh. She was snatched off her feet. I er. Sorry.gone!" Kelly nodded blankly. suddenly losing his appetite despite how good the food smelt. Don't know what he was involved in but your people have been all over him. "You are magic. "No Amy." "Yeah he's a regular hero alright.right O-KAY not sure there's any other way I can put my foot in it! He's in here. "You were with him weren't you -. right.." . "I will leave you two to it." Zoe added. "Great. "It always works in the movies. He imagined that nurse Zoe Sampson was a bit of a handful outside of her job.. he saw Kelly and he recognised the nurse as one of the ones who had treated him. fingering it open with his good hand and with some help from Kelly." Craig eased himself up in the bed on his left arm. what must they be thinking down the station? They took all of Rachel's equipment.." Craig put a poised chip back into the pile. The little red head had a wicked smile. they interviewed me and Rachel at your flat just after you was taken by the paramedics. Kelly laughed then covered her mouth and apologised to Craig.and just where I like it. "Yup. passed out when they popped my shoulder back in and I hit my head on a trolley." The nurse smirked.. Kelly fingered his blonde hair away from his forehead and found the thin ragged gash that was knitted together by three adhesive stitches." She stopped abruptly before speaking again in a quicker pace. trying to hide his embarrassment at his injuries.Chapter Thirteen 70 "Oh." She said goodbye to Kelly." "They shouldn't make battering a door down look so easy. "I don't understand it. Rachel's at a loss. It's as near to grapes as I could get you at this time of night. careful not to move his other arm in its padded sling. "They fixed your shoulder then?" Craig winced at the thought. She jumped as if she remembered something. "No. "I take it you had the interview from the Police too?" Craig blew on a chip before popping it in his mouth.." She pulled a bundle of greasy paper out from under her arm. He savoured the sharp mouth-watering smell of salt and vinegar. "What happened? I just don't understand.." The nurse checked over his sling. Craig grimaced sheepishly.. Now I fancy a Kebab and I don't get off for hours. her lips curled at the edges. "I didn't. "I wasn't spared.

"Thought I would wait for you. Although Craig was reluctant to head back to his flat. "Oh. but she gets me about. give you a lift home." "I feel the same. So after her turn to be interviewed by the police she crashed at yours.they are scraping Claire off the ceiling. bloody. Brian has just shut himself down. "I can see that they are right about the Police needing pay rises. It was raining and the tarmac was glossed black except for the puddles of orange light below the car park lighting. I'm always up for new experiences. Craig squinted against the drizzle that speckled his face. "How come?" 71 "My friend said the door had wedged. more than wedged. The early morning air was chilled and smelled fresh. They both picked through the chips and ran through each others experience of what had happened at the flat." Not actually wanting her to go anywhere. She's hysterical. "You could always walk." She stood poised half-in the car. "She may not look like much." Kelly guessed without checking her watch.Chapter Thirteen "How about the parents?" "I spoke with a colleague -." He looked over the small car.. "What you still doing here then? Get home. "This is -. Craig thanked her. but Rachel was worried about you and a bit upset about the whole thing and didn't want to go back to her empty flat. Kelly helped him off the bed and found Zoe to let her know they were leaving." Craig dived awkwardly into the cramp interior and settled himself into the passenger seat. Touched by the fact she had waited around for him considering they barely knew each other. Of course walking could be quicker" . ha! Don't insult 'Goldie'. looking for inconsistencies between the two that might offer a chance of rational reasoning for Amy's disappearance.." Craig pointed at the gold Yugo that Kelly hurried to. "I'm so tired. he admitted he was at least fit enough to leave A&E. I hope you don't mind." Craig paused in mid-expression of a frown as he deliberated over this statement." "What time is it? "Almost five I think." "It took them ten minutes to get them out of the bedroom. "Yeah." Kelly frowned and then rubbed her eyes and groaned aloud. Don't think he can cope or understand." "Ha." "That's okay. no. They were at a loss to explain how it had happened. It was as if the door and the jamb had become one lump of wood: Fused together! The team had to hack it open with an axe. The glare of passing headlights and ambulance blues glittered in the rain. she makes the speed limit.your car?" He eyed the piece-of-junk-car warily." Kelly's face flushed. They quickly lost their appetites. "No." she justified. Well.

Chapter Thirteen 72 Kelly cocked her head and rolled her eyes disdainfully with a wide warning smile as she plugged her seat belt in. Back home then?" The shadows within the car seemed to thicken and smother him with the prospect of having to return to the tower block. The tower block that was home to something they did not understand. "Don't you need me to get out and crank this thing up?" She turned the engine over and the car came to life." Her goal was like a punch in the gut. but I save a lot. thank you. "That won't be necessary. Was he going to be stuck there for the rest of his life? It was unlikely he could afford to be there for the rest of the year. . "I could have bought a better car. I don't want to be stuck at the Heights for the rest of my life.

seeing the light near her room the urge was even stronger. Yet there was something in the irrational thoughts that . The lance of light from his torch cut and sliced at the black tendrils of shadow that clung to the borders of any relief. poised on the brink of stepping into the darkness. He burst through the bedroom door.. His heart and fear powered him the short distance through the lounge.. Leave. The air was thick with dust and heavy with the smell of age and damp. Safe. Jason hesitated on one foot. with a creature sat in the centre like a spider with a crocodile maw grinning and long skinny arms ready to grab. Stewart's fear marshalled as he heard the strong spontaneous and desperate thoughts in his head. Police Officer Stewart Balin shone the thick beam of his torch around the large room that faced him at the bottom of the tower-block stairs. barely awake. He stopped dead. The light had been green. If he woke in the night he often needed to check she was still there. his eyes half-open as he stood using the toilet. He headed back to his room on autopilot until something unfamiliar snapped him from his trance and his pace slowed... He launched himself forward. The black smothering monster that surrounded him ate at his resolve to move forward. The spot of light from his torch slid across the cabinets and shelving before him. not bothering to hunt down the light switch. The air hushed in his ears. A smudge of light picked out the shapes of the furniture in the lounge before it faded into blackness. Go back up. A chill wrapped around him as he stood and stared into the black doorway. He rested it on a black gap behind a cabinet that had been pulled aside. Stewart started his journey into the large basement room with a casual confidence. The fear on her face stayed with him. joining the sound of his own racing blood as he ran. For a moment he challenged what caught his eye through the lounge doorway. His legs pounded the floor.. He flashed the beam at his feet to secure his path into the basement as he conducted his part of the coordinated sweep through the building... jumping the cracks and seams of the doors. Now. There's nothing down here.. He knew to fear the coloured light. Were those his thoughts? It had sounded like his mental-voice. The crayon that had been thickly scrawled on the dog-eared pages in spirals and swirls. His mum's room was off of the lounge. slammed it behind him and dived into the bed. his arms snaking across the sheets until he found the reassuring warmth of his mother's body. charging into the blackness. devouring his choice of direction except for the steps that would lead him back out of the basement and up and away into the safety of light and his colleagues. He needed to see her.. No one will know. The inky black strip swallowed the light from his torch as if nothing existed beyond.. The same colour he had seen in Amy's scribbled drawings. His search took him deeper into the room and the darkness swept around him. He had glimpsed the same colour light glowing from within Amy's room when she had been briefly trapped behind the door. More selfishly he wanted the safety of his mum. She was all he had now and the thought of losing his mum terrified him more than the light.Chapter Fourteen 73 Chapter Fourteen Jason slipped out of his bed and padded from his room. Emily was gone.

I know." Stewart jogged the last distance to the stairs feeling the blackness at his back like a rearing beast. James didn't recognise anyone anymore. It meant that whenever Robbie was brought down the club he was surrounded by his family. . Nothing down here. except there were no lads anymore. He scoured through photograph albums with her from time to time. The water washed over him. Hoping it would keep her grounded for longer. reminding her of the time line of their relationship and their physical appearance. Cupping the water in his clawed hands he bathed his face and ran his fingers through his thinning hair. After forty six years of being married to you. and with bleary eyes he saw her silhouette fill the doorway. The afternoon consisted of a nap with a book then dinner. His jog broke into a run as he hit the first step." Phyllis chastised absently as she started to brush her remaining teeth in the gloom.Chapter Fourteen 74 was too loud. "Don't turn the light on. plastering it to his prominent shiny scalp of liver spots and broken purple capillaries. or by her own aged reflection. Frank lay back and sighed as the heat relaxed his stiffened limbs that felt hollow and brittle. Phyllis smiled at him before replacing her toothbrush and left the bathroom. "I know. They wouldn't give any thought to the life he had had. only those that knew him as the old boy to say a polite hello to. He tried to shrug the thoughts off. Eventually the two old boys down the club would be gone. In the last two years she had started forgetting the little understandings and rituals they had developed over the decades together. The others had disappeared. Not quite him. There would be no one around that had shared in his past. James Mckerny didn't recognise Frank anymore. and clasped his radio at his lapel and squeezed the buttons. "Basement clear. a growing confidence slowing his pace. Old Father-Time and the Reaper were whittling his world. rising up his sagging pigeon chest and into the crevices of his collarbones as his bony hands held the rails on the bath. How jarring it must be for her to have her mental slips into the past. He spun on his heels. you would think I don't need telling. only to be confronted by him how he is now.full English at the weekends. too clear. the shrivelled old woman that he lived with now was totally irreconcilable to the young woman he had courted and married. only Robbie Peters and James Mckerny were left from the crowd that he regularly drank with.. Then it would be just him. The financial struggle would have been worth it to have people around him. shopping. Not wanting the drone of the extractor fan to shred the peace. He lowered himself into the comforting heat. Then he went for an afternoon drink down the Labour club with the lads. The voice in his head now his own again.. Frank Harbuck lay back in the steamy warmth of the bath. and his wife would slip further into the past. Although they had both watched each other age through the years. He heard his wife padding toward the room. His insistence upon routine despite being retired probably made it easier for her to keep her anchor in the present: up early. He closed his eyes and thought of the days when his body had been toned. or were in rest homes or dead he guessed. away. He couldn't chew the cud over a pint with Robbie's grandchildren hanging off him or racing him unceremoniously around the bar. launching a rake of static at the silence. Robbie lived with his son and his family now that his pins didn't work so well and he needed wheeling around. strong and light. He eyed his wife covertly and wondered if the confusion that occasionally flitted across her face was actually her wonder at who this old man was that claimed to be her husband. his life. With each footfall away from the basement the fear receded and reason regained its reign." he grumbled blandly. These days she did need reminding.. In the last year he regretted choosing not to have a family. reading the daily paper together. not scrawny. people that knew and loved him. and television in the evening while rubbing Phyllis's feet or bony back. too commanding. He opened his eyes.. but the doubt teased his fears. sinewy and the dragging weight it had now become. breakfast -.

hovering just above the surface. . Keeping his eyes closed he sucked in a fresh supply of air and sunk back into the quiet womb-like world. The surface of the water had become like polythene. The water flowed over his cheeks. His thick nails clipped to stubs. Filling the recesses of his closed eyes and threatening his nostrils. His lungs desperately clung to the last of his air. scraped the surface in an attempt to tear through. It changed the surface back to normal. The instinct to draw breath grew. Water flooded his mouth and he willed himself not to swallow. his whole body thrashed in the watery grave. deafening him to his wife working at breakfast in the kitchen. His face pressed gently against the translucent skin as he floated naked and lifeless. but the vacuum in his chest overpowered him. The surface didn't break but stretched across his face in a warm and flexible film. He choked and gulped more down. It drifted away. his feet slid frantically on the bottom of the bath. each mouthful like gobstoppers in his lungs. His fists bounded on the pliable but unforgiving surface. begging his body for more. His wide eyes stared through the surface. His eye's flicked open and the heat of the water washed over his naked eyes. He gulped again and the first mouthful of water forced itself painfully into his lungs like a balled fist. After exhausting his lungs he rose again. Frank panicked with the urgency of needing to breathe. One of his legs gave a last twitch. He could make out the gloomy details of the bathroom from his underwater world but no obstacle other than the surface itself. Finally the pressure forced him to gulp.Chapter Fourteen 75 Frank closed his eyes again and took a deep breath which strained at his dry lungs as he sunk his face under the water. His body stilled as his mouth opened wide in one final swallowing gesture. Answers acquired. The heat flooded his ears. He slowly released the air in slaloming bubbles and surfaced. floating the hair from around his head like a halo. then another choke and another intake. He bashed his fists against it with all his strength. His fingers scrambled at the smooth malleable skin unable to gain a grip or to break it. It watched from above. but only created slow ripples that radiated to the edge of the supple surface that sealed seamlessly with the bath. Frank's hands leapt for the rails of the bath to draw himself up but they struck the same restraint that kept him under.

I didn't even hear you come in. The bottle of vodka he kept on his book case was still in place but the level had dropped considerably. but then none of them had had much sleep. Besides. a pile of empty miniature bottles of alcohol nestled in the top of her large bag.and believe me with the visitations I receive I have had some pretty awful nightmares in my time." Rachel began to cleanse her face with some round waifer-like pads. If it hadn't been for the pain killers he would have considered a vodka induced blackout to block out the fear that crouched in his mind as he struggled to get to sleep. and I have a nice mottled yellow-purple-and-black-bruise thing going on which is. "Thank you. I had nightmares like I have never had before -." Rachel roughly pulled a brush through her flattened hair. y' know." He knew he looked it too. He didn't judge her on it. We both went to bed and agreed to meet up for a cuppa before Kelly had to go to work. "A little worse for falling asleep on the couch. He fantasised that that was her intended look." "Same here. it was a good look. I feel shattered. Uniformed and sultry. Craig after all. Wasn't just nightmares -.sleeping was like wrestling with a crocodile or something. Oh." he replied sarcastically. He had found Rachel asleep on the sofa." "Tea sounds bliss. Craig switched the kettle on in the kitchen and the two women sat at the small battered table butted up to the blank wall. I think pillow hair is underrated." "I don't know." "Thank you Kelly. "Very unnerving. "Thanks. then panicked that it was. colourful at the least. "I look a mess. "Did you put the blanket around me?" Craig nodded to Rachel as he prepared their drinks and she freshened up her make-up. now that was wishful thinking.Chapter Fifteen 76 Chapter Fifteen Craig let Kelly in. I never want to see my arm in that position again." He spooned the tea . "Is your arm okay now?" "It doesn't feel too bad. "How are you feeling?" he asked. I thought so. Rachel popped open a compact mirror. "We were back hours ago -." Craig gave a mock shudder. I'm gonna keep the sling on for a bit though. She was back in uniform but she hadn't tied her hair up. it would be some time before he found women in Police uniforms sexy after the previous nights grilling.just didn't want to wake you." Craig thought coffee would probably be better for Rachel. Heading past the lounge on the way to the kitchen he saw that Rachel had stirred from her sleep on the sofa. Can't say I slept peacefully though. No." "It works for you. She nodded to his sling. "You're back.

Rachel nodded her head to Kelly's uniform.have either of you got any idea what happened to Amy?" Silence descended and Rachel shifted." Rachel bowed her head. I can go along with the baffled feeling -. She stammered and started. "Amy was on the screen." She broke off a piece of chocolate for herself and held it poised before her lips. then there was a terrible noise." Now that Kelly had stated what he.Chapter Fifteen bags into the bin." Craig delivered the teas to the table." she popped the chocolate into her mouth and brought her contribution to a momentary close. "So to clarify -. "Are you both alright after your interviews with the police?" Kelly looked uncomfortable and a little guilty. had assumed Kelly wouldn't acknowledge he stepped in. but that's just normal procedure. "An exercise that didn't turn up anything before with Emily. If the . The monitor's feed showed she was alone. though they won't admit it." Rachel shook her head grimly as she took the wrapper from a Kit-Kat." "They won't keep hold of it for too long. Kelly pulled a Galaxy bar out of the bag. her eyes were evasive. Craig invited me in for a bit before my shift so the three of us could talk. and I guess even the tapes from last night go a little way to show that we didn't enter the flat at the time of the disappearance. Craig swallowed a melted mouthful of chocolate. and probably Rachel. "So -chocolate anyone?" The two women laughed at him and delved into the bag. as if the grilling was somehow her fault. We might get more interviews. "I don't think they can really suspect any of us. who realised this with a physical jolt. "It made me feel so guilty. "I saw just as much as you did on that monitor. They will be just as baffled as anyone. fielding the theorizing out. as if we had played some part in Amy's disappearance. she heard or saw something. They will search the building and local area but it's a time consuming exercise. creating a quiet to be filled." Kelly explained. a flash and the next moment she was gone." 77 "Tell me about it! I have to go in though." Craig battled to unwrap a chocolate bar with one hand. suddenly looking uncomfortable in her seat. "I have never experienced anything like this before. The flat door was locked from the inside when I went down there and tried my heroics. "Breakfast isn't up to much -. As if we had done Well. Without word Rachel took it away from him opened it and broke it into chunks and slid it back to him.bread is green and only enough milk for tea. "Well he didn't get his truncheon out." He roughly deposited the bags onto the table from his shopping trip with Kelly the night before. The university will be so cross with him. "Poor David's equipment." "The energy rush would be helpful too. was snatched into thin air. Craig quickly took his tea up and allowed the baton of explanations to pass to Kelly. They only have to look at our alibi's for the other disappearances. "You haven't got work? Not after last night." Craig sat his bar of Dairy Milk before him.we are saying that she Amy. so I'm quite glad of that. "Not my breakfast of choice but I need the comfort of chocolate.

and most likely Emily too. When Claire called on me. felt safe knowing they were about." Craig was disappointed that she couldn't explain it further and frustrated that she wasn't more willing to hypothesize more from her own unique perspective and corner of knowledge. It was a police thing. Rachel was more willing to commit her ideas." she admitted to Rachel before explaining about the other disappearances. He blew on his tea. I didn't tell you before. is beyond the realms of natural explanation. For Kelly. "But where does that leave us?" Craig's motive for involvement was in wanting a story. "Of course. On occasion I am convinced they can result in some minor scratches and bruises. Rachel leaned forward decisively. but he had always been reassured by seeing a uniformed copper or a police car." she paused awkwardly. silently questioning if he was willing to commit to the uncomfortable direction that Rachel was corralling them into accepting." Rachel's conclusion bulldozed purposefully through any thought of denial that Craig or Kelly could dare to challenge her with. Even though for Craig the story was chillingly real and threatening. we saw that whatever was responsible for what happened to Amy. she looked up into his face. and demanded to be resolved. I agree. "It isn't just Amy and Emily. That's what had pulled him into this. but he had a sense that things had gone beyond that now. Craig imagined that now he and Kelly had shown they were willing to stand at the edge of scepticism and reason. but never abductions. helpless despair riding and distorting her voice. "We don't have the answers. The story he had been chasing had turned on him and it had evolved into something no one would believe within a newspaper. He looked to Rachel. "I guess you're right. he could imagine the discomfort was far worse. "More importantly where does that leave Amy?" Kelly asked. the ritual was just strangely comforting." His skin crawled at the possibility of being defenceless against an unseen force that could evidently strike anywhere and at anytime. I leave all ideas like that to Hollywood and fiction. Accepting that fact makes us a damn sight closer to facing up to this than the police or anyone else that is puzzling this out.Chapter Fifteen 78 windows had been unlocked I would have been reasonably happy to entertain someone entering and leaving that way. He knew she was right. "The only experience I have that's remotely like this is with poltergeist activities. ghost and monster stories he knew of came close to what they had experienced. despite it involving Spiderman abilities. I couldn't let it out. he knew the Police had their limitations in the community.. Craig could see the same vulnerability in Kelly's eyes that he had seen at her flat when she had related her worries about what was happening on their doorsteps. they had to accept what had happened if they hoped to understand it. but settled himself by thinking that of all the strange stories and occurrences that he knew none of the famous disappearances. "I only confided in Craig as I needed someone to talk to. Now we have that out the way . Rachel. if that's what that was last night. So this is not an isolated case.. although there was no need.what next?" Kelly interrupted Rachel before she could begin. He gave her a strong confident smile and shrugged. "Sorry. dear. How much security and comfort did she get from her uniform and her job now? As if his thoughts had connected him to Kelly. But." Rachel took her turn again. "While we are revealing withheld truths. I have to make a confession myself. You understand don't you?" Rachel flagged her apology down and nodded. There could possibly be more to come. He wasn't naïve. He was surprised at how seeing someone in uniform look so lost impotent and so human could be so unnerving for him. I .

I'm shattered. I should get home and freshen up and do a bit of research. there is history. seemingly marshalled. "Just got a job come up. So I guess that's my contribution. "Yeah. Rachel thanked her for the pardon too quickly to believe it. I probably won't be out long on this job but I am gonna try and get some sleep afterwards. "It seems that at the moment. sure. Call me this afternoon. And I need to take it so I can buy bread that isn't green and furry." It felt strange that their normal lives were filtering back in. "Usually with a haunting. You should do the same. "Not being rude. I can have a walk through the flats and see if I can sense anything unusual anywhere else.. "If it's something paranormal what do we do about something we don't even understand? If it is a ghost. then how do we fight against a ghost?" Craig urged.Chapter Fifteen 79 thought it was a cry for help. David and I might be able to go to the library and do some research. and spoke firmly and as decisively." With the reminder of her job she glanced at her watch before downing her remaining tea. "I had better run. was far from comforting. His relief returned at hearing Vicki's cheerfully abusive voice. that's if David is still speaking to me after last night. He returned to the table but didn't sit. his girlfriend Kim is a librarian so she will most likely help us too.. Rachel stood sharply. Looking surprised at the hug that Rachel gave her.. "Let me know what you find out will you?" Kelly arranged to call him later and said her goodbyes. They made plans to meet and said their goodbyes. but I didn't believe her until it was too late. You can't take any responsibility. "So what do you think we should do? -. Desperation. if it is an 'it'. Craig saw the burden of having her insight. She returned to the table. What could we have done to make any difference?" Kelly hastily reasoned. The police calling him back? Irrational misplaced guilt and fear embraced him in a crushing hold. Emotional turmoil. although in this situation it offered little help. and now Amy is gone too. whether they are psychological episodes or paranormal events. She explained she had a job for him. Of course. especially with children." Craig started with a wince. not the cause of losing Emily. "Yes. And how do we get those children back? Where have they gone? What does 'it'." Although the thought of sleep and the bad dreams that waited there." Rachel's stared into her empty mug. . "Don't worry. "Claire suspected there was something paranormal behind Emily's disappearance. If there were to be any activity I would have thought it more brought on by their troubles at losing Emily. "I can keep my ears open for any other strange occurrences. Rachel slumped back in her chair looking drained by the plea.." "There is no blame to be taken Rachel. want with them?" Kelly hugged herself. Craig's landline phone rang. Maybe we can uncover any previous disturbances if there have been any.What can we do?" Kelly entreated. try and find out what's happening here." Craig summarised. I will call you later" Craig stood aside as she headed in to his lounge to retrieve her bag. Craig was relieved to be grounded by the mundane until dread crept upon him. seems to be the basis of poltergeist events." She stood up." Kelly looked inspired by Rachel's decisiveness. get myself out there for work. he was sure that by the afternoon the events of last night would seem like a dream or a delusion. all we have are questions.

"It has been difficult lately. He shrugged in reply and sat down to the breakfast his mum had prepared for him at the small kitchen table. Suddenly he realised that he was actually alone. The morning was bright and the smell of toast and sugary cereal stirred his appetite.Chapter Sixteen 80 Chapter Sixteen Jason stirred from sleep. Jason entered the lounge and kitchen area and the chatter of the morning radio show greeted him.the monsters could hide within the conspiracy of disbelief that adults and parents relied upon to reassure children. He couldn't explain what had disturbed the darkness in the lounge. Don't worry. say it out loud to prove it again to himself. heading off his mum's predictable ineffectual warning about how she didn't want him playing on the X-box all day. . "I -. No one would. What do you do when you have a realisation that changes the world? He had imagined a summer of X-box to numb the memories of his primary school anxieties and his more recent worries about secondary school. What are you going to do with yourself?" He didn't know. A diamond sparkling tear clung to one of her eye lids before falling onto her cheek. we all need comfort and reassurance from time to time. He sprung into a sitting position.. as if his mum's weight had gone from the bed. unsure of how to explain what he had seen and sensed. He snapped his eyes open and found he was alone. He couldn't imagine his X-box providing much distraction from what he had seen in the night. slowly becoming aware of his surroundings. "Bad dream?" He nodded.you have the whole day ahead of you. Somehow he was sure that monsters would only come if he was alone. How could she talk about the things she had seen? Or explain about the things that frightened her? He decided that when he saw her again he would reassure her that she wasn't alone." She rolled her eyes at him and she gestured for him to get up. She made the bed behind him as he clambered out." she breezed before her face became serious. He was hungry and taking in the food felt good. She snapped the radio off and suddenly the world seemed serious.but monsters existed! and the world carried on. He wanted to shout out to the neighbourhood. her hand raised to her mouth. The terror switched instantly into embarrassment at the sight of his mum leaning against the frame of the open door sipping a cup of tea and watching him.. "Is that what made you come into my bed last night? You haven't done that for years. and even if he could his mother wouldn't believe him. "It's the start of your summer break -. Even his body carried on its demands as normal despite his experiences. despite the danger he felt he was still in. Maybe that was how monsters kept their existence secret -.saw something. Probably all those computer games you keep playing. her eyes looking anywhere but at Jason. Jason rushed after his mother and the security of being in company. Traffic filtered through the streets below. "Nightmares. the monster from Amy's drawing rushing into his imagination. The phone rang. although he knew her understanding would only go so far. He paused by the window and shared the view with pigeons perched on the ledge beyond the glass." Jason hesitated. stammering. He became aware of his mum on the phone. people came and went -. The Foundations started singing from the radio 'Why do you build me up'. warn them. He understood Amy's silence. He was alone with his fear. her sentences starting and breaking around whatever was said in her ear." In a moment the look had passed and she strolled from the room. The mattress felt firm and level. leaving him wanting more from the moment of openness.

but now Amy too With his dad also gone his world was being eaten away. I might be talking with Claire. He needed to be strong for his mum. Beneath the sound of the whispering currents of air there was a quiet that lent this floor an atmosphere of being deserted and isolated. She swallowed her apprehension that nagged her incessantly. grabbed her bag and headed for the door. clattering and resounding off all the other doors. okay honey?" she whispered through hot moist lips at his ear. He knew his mum needed to be with Claire. Her lips pulled tight around her words as she struggled to talk through her tears. be strong for himself.. Rachel became aware of the spy hole that faced her. Silence. all he could do was try and process what he had been told.. Okay -. Gone. The door slammed behind her and he listened to her hurried steps fading into the quiet of the corridor. She had wanted to make this visit the first time she had been invited into the high-rise building. The doors squealed shut behind her and the lift rumbled downwards and away.. He wanted to scream and give into the grief that always seemed to be in the back of his mind and the bottom of his heart. The crayon creature from Amy's picture haunted him. Jason slipped from the table before he could swallow his mouthful of toast and ask what was wrong. holding him in place like she had before when she had told him something he would find difficult to hear. Just try and calm her down. pulled away. but she accepted it was possibly futile as it was unlikely Cat would open the door to her. as if parts of it were being systematically erased. "I have to go and see Claire.. Don't worry if I don't answer straight away. Rachel's lift rattled up to the fourteenth floor and the doors slid open onto the communal corridor." His mum absently slid the handset back and forth across the phone until it hooked back in place.. and now he no longer felt safe within the walls and comforts of his home. far brighter than the other floors she had been on. Fears stirred in the dark corners of his mind. slinking out from behind thoughts of distraction in music. She stood before Cat's door and didn't give herself the chance to change her mind. At the opposite end a window panel rattled with the scrabbling fingers of air that pulled upon any relief on the buildings surface. I'm so sorry. His mum dropped to her haunches before him and held his arms to his side. From that window the morning sun pushed its bright warm yellow light almost half the way up the hall. It was a bold move for Rachel.. reaching the end of the corridor before being choked and silenced. I'm coming now. "I love you... I er. staring with its beady cyclopean eye.I will come up straight away. Don't know how long I will be." Jason couldn't blink. Rachel stepped out hesitantly. couldn't swallow the pulped toast in his mouth. stranding her should she need a hasty retreat. The sound echoed outwards. a building that seemed like a fortress to the uninvited. but he wanted her too. Don't you worry too much. . cartoons or Xbox. "I need you to entertain yourself.. She waited for the eye to blink as Cat came to the door. Something has happened.. She rapped the knocker. Jason heard her ask if he was alright and he nodded distantly. Terrors hid behind the furniture and the closed doors of the flat. lit from the light within the flat." He stood dumb and allowed his mum to pull him close. First the safety of his family had gone. Losing Emily was impossible to understand. Amy has. but after last night there was no guarantee she would be in the position to gain access to the flats again. On this uppermost level the air howled around the corners of the hard concrete tower and whistled through a crack in the far window that framed a square of cool blue sky at the end of the corridor.Chapter Sixteen 81 "Brian... If you need anything just call my mobile. Brian. She kissed him.

The girl had to go to hospital. don't you?" She asked accusingly. The eye in the door had yet to blink. She hasn't moved?" "You aren't close then. Rachel shook the memory of that experience from her mind. her sharp expression softening. but Rachel suspected she was fishing for gossip. "And it would be helping me too. I came out to see what was going on. I could hear the girl screaming. "She ruined her flat. Unless no one has contacted you? Doesn't seem like she had much in the way of friends or family. older stern looking woman." The old woman eyed her in return with an arched eyebrow. I heard all this crashing and bashing around. "I hate to tell you. for it seemed to squirm within her mind as if the remembered event had a life of its own. She's in a private room at the hospital if you want to visit her. "Just calling for a friend. So I called the police. If you don't know where she is. it happened in the morning. I don't get out much you see. To her knowledge she had never used them but if this activity had spread out within the building. yet not knowing what had happened to the girl. apparently unfinished in making her judgement. Or drugs" The small lady paused. We haven't spoken in a while." Rachel suddenly thought of Helen. nor my head for the outside either. Her thin puckered lips pursed as she stopped. legs aint what they used to be now.Chapter Sixteen 82 She wasn't purely indulging her painful longing for reconciliation and closure on an issue that haunted her. Rachel knocked again. Actually... you could do the girl a favour. Rachel knew Cat had talents like her own. that was what I last heard from the hospital." Her face flushed with the shame in claiming to be as close as family.. "There's no one there. She hasn't woken yet though. The rag-like lady seemed to warm slightly.. "Can I help you?" Rachel spun round to the short." the woman resolved as she fished a small bunch of keys from her pocket. The girl she had said that she would care for as if she were her own child. She emerged from her flat and leaned on the wall. I was checking in on her. the promise she had made to her and her heart became a lead weight in her chest. Rachel decided to step in and tilt the balance in her favour." The woman openly weighed the level of trust she could place upon Rachel.. then Cat might have experienced something similar to that strange dark entity of energy and raw emotion that Rachel had encountered in Amy and Emily's bedroom.. "I was hoping she would be here. "What happened?" "I remember. or the door to pull open.. "I have heard that she stabilised. concern dawning on her as she noticed six inches of splintered wood running along the edge of the door where the lock met the doorjamb. "You a friend? You know where the girl is." She delivered the bare truth and waited for the woman's verdict. "I am as close as she has to family. She must have had some kind of 'mental episode'. She was out cold when they found her.. bringing herself out from the wall.. who leaned from a neighbouring doorway. She wouldn't answer her door. You could take her some things?" She smiled . She looked dark.." Rachel carefully eyed the who looked decidedly odd in a knee length cardigan and a colourful crocheted hat. Rachel fingered the raw chewed wood that was exposed from the white gloss of the doorframe. scruffy and dishevelled against the crisp clinical creams and whites of the corridor. The older woman seemed to pick up on Rachel's shock and shifted uncomfortably on her feet.

kept herself to herself. The contents of the draws. The holes were taped over with clear plastic that rippled and flapped in the wind.. There was no one else in here when they came in. and into the lounge." Taking Rachel's smile as acceptance of the job. the caretaker. "It's hard to believe that one person could do. "all this. Rachel was puzzled at the extreme extent of the damage. blowing everything outwards. and the bathroom. herding her through the flats claustrophobic hall with its doors off to the bedroom. bills and letters were spread about the room like confetti. their glass gone leaving sharp sparkling teeth. She has been in hospital for three weeks now and I'm sure she could do with some fresh things. papers. She let Rachel enter first. she rattled a key in the lock. "I didn't see anyone else come out. Rachel followed the old woman's example of pulling her clothes close to her as she entered. it was from this vantage point she observed that the debris radiated out around her in a blast pattern.. its crescendo lashing her senses with hot pain. the glass fractured into a splintered web. the bulk of the sofa now rammed into what was left of a large bookcase with an impact that had demolished several of the shelves. doesn't it. A noise forced itself into her head like a train whistle exploding in a tunnel. but it was hard to gauge what kind of home Cat had made for herself since she had left Rachel's because the room looked like a tornado had swept through and shredded the room into debris and a scene of carnage. but she seemed nice enough. a rush of air hit against them as if the door had been hermetically sealed and the air pressure had changed with its opening. "Shame I haven't been able to help more. the sides pulped with its chipboard bared from beneath the wood grain-laminate in ragged cracks and splits. On the wall leading away from her a picture-frame was embedded flush with the plaster. Don't know her really. "You're saying Cat did this?" The lady shrugged." The woman pushed the door open but it momentarily resisted her. the centre of it caved inwards to reveal the back of the plasterboard wall for the bedroom beyond." The woman grunted in a disdainful way communicating that she believed anyone capable of anything. changed the locks for her 'coz the police busted her door in. as if a bomb truly had gone off in the middle of the room. while the furniture seemed to be an ash colour. "Alec. revealing a maw of black and yellow teeth eroded into pins. Green light blazed into the room with albescent intensity at its . A psychic blast slammed violently into her mind. "Looks like a bomb hit it. was sagging with it's back broken and the hard wooden frame pressed against the green fabric. looking in at the area where she should have been. Rachel dared to take a few steps through the mess. Rachel stepped closer to the middle of the room. Rachel made a full 360-degree turn in surveying the pattern of the damage. She held up the key. He fixed it up well though. She smelt of pear-drops. The lounge walls were a crisp lime green. The woman managed to force the door from the grip of the wind that howled louder from within the flat now the door had opened.Chapter Sixteen 83 hopefully. Her perspective shifted from the middle of the lounge where she stood to a view from the edge of the room." Rachel surveyed the devastation in incredulous shock.. She looked to the jagged yawning spaces that were once windows.. The cold air bit viciously at them both while the noise of flapping plastic lashed at their ears like the flapping of some dread bird. The room was restored to its original undamaged state. The wall behind the remains of the furniture was indented." Rachel focussed her attention to the sideboard with its back forced through the plasterboard wall. The couch that looked as though it had originally been arranged further out into the room.?" the woman clicked disapprovingly. There was a crushed sideboard to her left. screaming through her mind. spilling their burden. She noticed other items of debris embedded into the walls as if pressed in by a great expanding force.

. The anguish faded from Cat's face and she sank to the floor as if time itself had slowed to a torturously lethargic crawl. raw and aggressive. "Cold in here. the breaking surf frozen in time. . nothing as overwhelmingly powerful or clear as the potent nightmare she had just experienced. except this time there had been a defined image of the event that had occurred. Rachel clambered to make sense of what had just happened. primal. a madness of jumbled intense feelings that were at once satisfied and harmonized into menace and intent. Light exploded from Cat's head in a shockwave that rippled through the air. "You should be careful in here. The reminder of the hate and bitterness that Cat held for her cut her deeply. Helen had once been the centre of the picture. "You alright. crumpled and motionless on the floor like a discarded marionette. but mostly it was mild. Helen. Her eyes adjusted to the light in her mind's eye and within that fire she saw the slender figure of Cat in her nightclothes.Chapter Sixteen 84 core that paled her surroundings into obscurity. could do yourself an injury with all this stuff. Cat's face was a contortion of pain and defiance as if the very air about her menaced and tortured her. Rachel cowered from the vision of the powerful blast that played within her mind. Rachel had the same photograph on her mantle-piece at home. She crouched and found three photo frames protruding from the debris. Rachel remembered the daytrip to Brighton. inducing nausea and hallucinations. It held a photo of Helen holding a six-year-old-Cat's hand on a pebbly beach. The fall of her shoulder length red hair was disturbed into wild writhing Medusa strands. Cat was snapped from her feet and suspended mid-air at the heart of the light over the very spot where Rachel had stood. like an unformed thought lacking clarity or mental voice. She dabbed a balled up tissue against her face as she fought to contain her shaken will. Within this anonymous thing she had sensed in the lounge there had been a caldera of emotions. fear. but there had been something else beyond her senses of sight and sound The wordless-screaming-noise seemed to leave a wake echoing within her mind. recognising the picture instantly. Once again her clairsentience had helped her pick up the trace or the memory that the burst of psychic energy had left within the room at the point she had stepped into. curiosity. It was quite evident that something had happened to Cat far beyond a 'mental episode'. just as there had been at the Chamber's flat." she excused her watering eyes and nose. A residue of a sentient entity." The vision of Cats assault was over and she found herself staring at the beige cord carpet glittering with its sprinkling of broken glass. Rachel crunched back across the debris but before she could agree to the old lady's request of taking Cat some belongings she noticed a glint of silver behind the open door. confusion. Rachel had been holding Helen's other hand before a blade had sheared through the photograph. love?" the lady asked with a distrustful tone and puzzled expression. flanked by Cat and Rachel. blasting the contents of the room to the walls. Cat sprawled. careful of the blades of glass that flowered outwards. She pulled at the buckled silver frame that had drawn her attention. it was thought to be the most common cause of suspected paranormal activity. only this time it had been more intense and powerful. Rachel was well aware that concentrations of electrical conduits. and studied it. The flash of emotion and power had been similar to the experience within Amy and Emily's room.. She liberated the second frame. The edge of the photograph ran close to Helen's shoulder disturbing the symmetry and balance within the framing of the image. Cat was gone and Rachel was restored to her physical position in the middle of the room. Rachel fingered the edge of the photograph where it had been trimmed. Rachel tried to reassure the woman with a smile despite the sting of hot tears pressed into her eyes by the wrench of seeing and feeling Cat in so much distress. bad rewiring or faulty electrical equipment could create powerful electromagnetic fields that could subliminally affect the senses.

She had a cat. Needless to say. Lord! I clean forgot about that. The thing ran off when I opened my door one day. "Oh.Chapter Sixteen 85 The last frame was in two pieces. I took it in and cared for it. With a trembling hand Rachel slipped the photograph from the pile of broken glass and shook the glittering slithers from it. A small black and white cat. It confirmed the accuracy of her vision.well. I hope the little thing didn't come to any harm. Three weeks ago Catherine had been assaulted by some 'thing' in her flat." The black and white kitten was the likeness of the cat that had come to Rachel's flat all those days ago. An omen? Catherine's cat? Cat? -. It ran out when the police bashed in. I like cats. Three weeks ago a cat found it's way to her. I tried to chase it. I'm sure it has found itself a few homes by now. Grim realisation planted its chilled spindly fingers on her skin. The old lady interrupted her as she saw the picture. It was a more recent one of Cat taken within the flat when it had been in order. More significant was that in the photograph Cat was holding a kitten nuzzled to her face. but haven't had one for a while. The poor thing must have had the scare of its life in here when all this happened. it moved faster than I could. Cat's are quite independent though. But -...Catherine? .

"Well if you want the truth." Without looking he sensed Vicki had raised her brow at his denial. his frame was sagging with the weight of his lethargy. all he needed was Vicki pimping him as paparazzi. He didn't give in to it." She closed her eyes tightly shut and shook her curly mop of honey blonde hair as if her mind was a snow-globe. his youthful face . "Wouldn't want to shatter your hopes and wishes. "I'm just erasing that image from my head. "So you weren't disturbed in the night? What with the police running around here in their size twelve's" He fingered the button for the lift." Vicki allowed for a pause that was pregnant with a change of tact.Chapter Seventeen 86 Chapter Seventeen Craig swiped his camera up and shoved it in his padded shoulder bag and jogged to the door." "Not sure I like the 'so far' part of that but I'm in. acutely aware of Vicki's intense gaze boring into him. I need the money." "He should have thought about that before he started getting his jollies in the steam rooms. "What's the job then gov?" "A source in the council has told me a councillor makes a weekly trip to a gay sauna on Chalk Farm Road." "The front page of the local rag isn't the best way to find that out. Vicki waited." "Sod. come on then. "Police? Didn't notice." The mention of snakebite recalled unpleasant memories of a night with Vicki drinking him into a stupor. he didn't have what it took to be a journalist. we could celebrate with a pint of Snakebite that my stalker is finally getting a life. the coffee. Slept like a baby." "That's the plan so far. he looked withered and wasted within his clothes.in all the frenzy my arm popped its socket. searching for a reaction. If his career led to him making a living from snapping some heartthrobs sweat patches or some pop-star going commando he might just end it all now." He down turned the corners of his mouth and gave her puppy dog eyes. "So we watch and take pictures of him going in." This really was cheapening his talent. you gonna tell me how you really busted your arm or are you sticking with the 'I fell running up the stairs' story. "If I did I would break it to you over coffee. She could see what he had seen in the mirror that morning as he fixed his tie and styled his hair. not just tell you on my doorstep like this. when we all know you wouldn't dream of taking stairs when there's a perfectly good. Had an early night." News is news and that was it for Vicki. dressed in her familiar baggy jumper and tight fitting jeans. "You took your time? Haven't gone and got yourself a babe have you?" Vicki teased. I was looking through those photo's of you and I couldn't control myself -. He was glad there was a distance between them and the west end." "Really? Is being gay still news?" "I think it would be news to his wife and three kids. if not scary. She was right. as if the movement had created displacement in the air." "You sick bunny. lift?" Craig flushed at having to lie to her as they headed to the lift. "So.

Vicki's face soured briefly as Craig elaborated on his dream and gave a vivid description of the old man in his dream had died. He relaxed from his defensive posturing. "I dislocated my arm yesterday. got a friend in the force." she skulked forlornly. but hoped it had been enough to make her back off. "Could this nightmare be a guilt complex? Because of something you're keeping from a good friend maybe?" Craig allowed himself to go with the wave of humour she offered. The things he had seen had been so vivid and disturbingly real they had been more like traumatic memories than dreams. but just grunted in acknowledgement. "Why do you look like shit then?" she joked but with a voice edged with concern. "Putting my own insecurity aside. Miss Freud do you think my dream of an old man being drowned in his bath is a guilt thing?" Craig rubbed his chin miming thought.. you win! You have foiled my oh-so subtle manipulation. although 'nightmares' didn't adequately describe the things his unconscious had been subjected to. unsatisfying direction his career and life had taken since university. Craig could see that Vicki felt the sting of his words and instantly understood the mistake of her hypocrisy. but he couldn't trust her with what had happened last night without it being opportunistically used for story. "Don't blank me out Mr!" .Chapter Seventeen was pale and sullen with his eyes puffed and vacant. It offered him little money or time to improve his portfolio. merely serving the function of paying his bills. He didn't divulge anymore. Just scared of competition I guess." he confessed. "Okay. He was envious of Vicki having a fulfilling outlet for her creativity. "I have been told not to talk to the press." Vicki scolded with equal humour and frustration. "Oh. "Oiy!" she shouted coarsely in his ear. His guilt caused a rising nausea from being found out and for the culpability of his part in Amy's disappearance. Before university he had thought his passion and talent for photography would be the realisation of his aspirations. They stood in tense silence for a while. Your name popped up. "Hmmm." Vicki folded her arms and turned to Craig in a motion of defeat. I am when you want me to be!" He laughed as a distraction from the chord that reverberated jarringly at her statement." Craig didn't look at her. I had lots of nightmares. squinting her eyes as if that would focus her deeper into his mind to get to the information she sought." He admitted reluctantly. So give it up" Craig panicked at the revelation that his name had come up in connection with what had happened. "Ooh. you know that if I had any influence at all I would get you onboard somehow. Nasty. In reality he hadn't achieved the distinction needed to compete with his art-house peers. Craig ignored a second flick from Vicki meant to prompt him into his normal self. "I thought it was stick to what you know best?" He held the camera up as a prop. "Actually.. Part of his bitterness was the fact that over the last couple of years Vicki had become the closest thing he had to a good friend. but no details. She flicked him playfully. What's your excuse?" He quickly covered his emotions with a grin. Not nice. although without the necessary qualifications he could be chasing up a dead end. "You are the press. After the overwhelming events of the previous night he was surprised by the selfish resurgence of his mundane resentment towards the stunted. 87 He allowed a measure of his frustration at her doggedness into his voice. But. "I can't. but any thought of finding sanctuary in their usual playful humour was quickly suppressed by his mood and guilt for lashing out at her. and his freelance work was hardly satisfying his creativity. and that increased the power of gravity that her profession had on him. "Sorry. seriously what happened last night? I know the Chambers other kid has gone missing. let me think? Now." Vicki scrutinised him.

Vicki acted first. He snapped his arms to his side and relaxed against the wall. Vicki's face blanched and she clutched at the handrails. You win. "Oh. It was smothered with a red blanket and beneath it were the awkward jutting angles of a body. but she didn't relent. Now." He said to the paramedics. Craig dawdled after her onto the second floor. In what must have looked like a monkey impression. with his arms curled towards his sides and his hands knuckled into loose fists. "What happened?" Vicki fished instinctively. his head craning after the ambulance crew as they took their places in the lift. "Ladies." He jumped up and down causing the car to shudder each time he hit the floor." "I thought so." she conceded. You've asked for it." One of the medics left the side of the trolley for the lift controls and a bare arm flopped from beneath the cover on the trolley. trying not to react as Vicki danced about him poking the flesh of his sides. He froze. "Right. A rush of dread from the disconcerting manifestation of his nightmare was followed quickly by grimy guilt when he saw that the police officer was one of the officers that had arrived at the Chambers when Amy vanished. The two paramedics didn't look up. puzzled by their expectant stares until he saw the trolley chair between them." . you cow. and using Craig's sling as a reign she guided him after her as if he were a distracted child. Its skin was shrivelled with age and pale. A drop of water dripped from its withered curled fingers as the doors closed shut and the lift trundled away. you are scaring me. He surrendered to laughter and told her to leave him alone. okay. caught out." he returned to Vicki. glancing uncomfortably about her. He looked away and straight into the face of a visibly shaken and accusatory Vicki. She was the wife of the drowned man. 88 The lift stopped and the doors opened to two female paramedics as Craig landed from a jump.Chapter Seventeen He squirmed. very smooth. Down the corridor he saw a female police officer comforting an old woman that he recognised from his dreams. but one of them announced without emotion. "Drowned in his bath. clammy like plucked chicken flesh. "Okay. "Drowned in the bath? Just like your dream. stepping from the lift to offer them the space they needed.

She wished she could send that character into the light. "I have an ability which lets me see. He took it into some inner consideration. hoping she hadn't been too honest with him. "You mean. She hoped there was nothing about her that resembled the diminutive dwarf-sized medium. but from a child it struck her with the force of an axe. She prodded the ground floor button and turned back to the boy who had no apparent destination. "Yes. he eyed her with a questioning concentration as she joined him and smiled consciously at him." He eyed her cautiously as if she offered tempting sweets under some condition he was reluctant to accept. "What's a medium?" If she wasn't suspended in a metal box over ten storeys off the ground she would quite happily have had the ground to open up underneath her feet. freeing her hands to carry the small sports bag she had taken from Cat's and packed with a change of clothes and toiletries. Tangina Barrons with her nasal southern American twang. Despite her attempt to save him from grief he looked to the floor with a grim face." Rachel had strongly denied any belief in that theory when Claire had suggested it but it was now the case. "Mum said you think you know things that other people don't. Although she wanted him to understand." "Emily and Amy disappeared just like the girl in that film. she was not in the mood to explain and justify her abilities. "Yes." "Oh. Tell if they are alive?" Rachel shifted uncomfortably. Rachel's mind was still awash with questions and concern for Cat and the threat that lingered within the Heights. The lift doors parted and Rachel was surprised to see a young boy standing within.his friend was now gone? Did he know of her involvement? Rachel was no stranger to the grief-fuelled spite of children. She frowned curiously as she noticed that none of the lift buttons were lit. and she felt too vulnerable herself to deal with his questions about the twins and deal with the boy's grief. "Are Amy or Emily still alive?" The question was gently delivered. She was sure from her experience on the nexus in the twins' bedroom that Emily was dead. I think they did. "I don't know. but I'm a bit taller and not so dramatic. wondering why that button hadn't been selected and he had ridden the lift to the very top of the building instead. like the woman in that old film Poltergeist?" Rachel closed her eyes under a frown. and that you can help find people who are lost. He had a strange knowing look and there was fear in his dark eyes. and now she could only assume that Amy had shared the same fate." She nodded.Chapter Eighteen 89 Chapter Eighteen Rachel put her arm through the small handle of her handbag and tucked the body of it awkwardly under her arm. and sometimes communicate with people that have passed away. Rachel nodded a polite greeting to the boy as he said a distracted "hello" to her. She recognised him as Amy's friend. did he know Amy -." She watched him receive this confirmation. The guilt was instant but she was thankful for him cutting in and saved her from having to answer." she lied. . She wasn't going to be able to escape. "What floor did you want?" "Ground floor.

she wanted him to believe her. she's worried about her. but mum doesn't believe her." "Thank you. but she could see from the relief on his face that her answer had somehow relaxed him from some inner turmoil. She now knew that in the land of the dead that existed alongside the land of the living there were undead monsters to fear and her talent suddenly frightened her for the first time. or you were there to make money out of them." He shrugged off her reasons and she suppressed some frustration with him. They never used to." "Don't you get frightened of them?" 90 "No. I think you were there to find out what was happening and you wanted to help. He was good. maybe children needed the comfort of their parents' institutional disbelief in the irrational." "So ghosts are real?" There was a hopefulness riding the end of his question. "and monsters are real too?" His question burned intensely in his eyes." Rachel sensed a deep adult vein through his physical youth from his gentle coercion for her to justify her involvement.Chapter Eighteen "Claire told my mum they have ghosts. yes." "People have different ideas about things." It felt wrong to admit it to a child and she felt guilty instantly. her ability and her understanding of the spirit world had led her to believe that danger only existed in the living world." "Oh? And what does your mum think?" "It's weird because mum and Claire have been best friends since before I was born. "Claire simply needed someone else to experience what she had experienced. People find it difficult to believe in some things until they experience it themselves. It doesn't mean they care any less for each other though." "Did you? Experience or see anything?" She bit her lip. I thought that coming from Claire she would believe her. Although she didn't want to admit it to herself." She lied. "I couldn't accept payment for my time on this occasion. "Yes. getting her hot under the collar by challenging her character and motives. Sometimes people just don't agree with each other. "To me they are. Different beliefs. and they took Emily and Amy. He frowned. she thinks Claire isn't thinking right." . She had already said more than his mother would be happy with. Nothing. "You were there last night weren't you?" "Yes. "If it makes you feel any better I think my mum was wrong. weakening her for a question he must surely know she would be reluctant to answer honestly to him." the lie sat uncomfortably between them. "No. I heard mum tell her friend that she thinks you were only there to keep Claire happy. but now she wasn't sure." "Claire told my mum that at first even you weren't sure whether to believe her. they have known each other since they were at junior school together. and I certainly wasn't humouring her.

Seized by the euphoric reassurance of public exposure Rachel gulped her hammering heart back into her chest. She prematurely dived through the gap that was barely wide enough for her. The boy held his hand out and Rachel looked at the adult gesture for the oddity that it was. He felt so close she expected the door to be forced from her grip and slammed shut before she could escape. but upon entering the hospital her thoughts had concentrated upon seeing Cat again and her worry for her condition. but instead he lunged for the button of another floor and flopped back against the wall. and claustrophobic -. and with the safety of the heavy door firmly shut between them she dared herself to pause in her escape and study her stalker through the glass. . Instinctively she knew where to look and found a shadow cast face staring back at her from behind the reinforced glass of a fire escape door marked "NO ENTRY". Before the doors could close fully he called after her: "Please help.Chapter Eighteen 91 To Rachel's relief the lift landed with a gentle bump and the doors opened onto the lobby of the ground floor. She walked quickly to the main door. porters. She took it gently and Jason introduced himself. since she had woken up that morning in Craig's flat she had experienced an underlying urgency to get away from the building. Harry watched her intently from the gloom. She yanked the door open as Harry's presence bore down on her. the feeling intensified. breaking her wary surveillance to focus on opening it. his unknown intent pressed menacingly against her back. Normally her senses could have been selective in what they processed. but more than that. intimidating her into leaving as Harry had attempted when she had first arrived. some of the patients that passed her were stale and unwashed. that she found it hard to recall her bus journey to the Royal Free hospital. doctors and nurses who travelled with her or intersected her path or came at her from opposite directions in a bewildering demand on her concentration.suffocating. Harry. She was distracted from her misery by an intense sense that she was being watched. smaller. even when Cat would be unaware of her. but found the lobby was empty. Unnerved by his determined stare Rachel turned away and rifled through her bag in a play of distraction while surreptitiously keeping the door in her periphery vision should it open. as if the very building was looming in around her. and all the strange and disturbing encounters she had experienced at the Heights. She leapfrogged from one landmark to the next trying in vain not to hinder visitors. She gave her name in return and left the lift expecting the boy to follow. bashing both elbows painfully in her clumsy desperation to escape. heightened Rachel's awareness of the world around her and the corridors of the hospital provided a bewildering array of stimulus. The clusters of bold coloured signs crowded in on her like insistent railway signals jutting into the corridors and jostling for her attention and direction. She wanted out of this awkward conversation. Somehow the place seemed different. Anxiety at this reunion. "Well this is our floor. each new sign threatening to derail her memory of the directions given to her by the reception staff. The hairs on the nape of her neck bristled in alarm and she hastily clamped her bags under her arms to free her hands to open the main door. coordination and awareness. hounding her resolve. She slammed the door closed against Harry. Rachel was certain she heard the fire door pull open in her wake. His eyes were sad. The bright fluorescent lights pressed down their glare on her tired and sensitive eyes and splashed back at her from distortions and depressions in the glossy linoleum flooring. Being so close to the main door and the safety and freedom beyond. and occasionally there was the faint but noxious smell of urine and faeces from clinical waste areas. The vending machine coffee that she held in her hand had a rich pungent wake." She said as a prompt to bring on the goodbyes. but in this place the dread in her head and the remembered grief in her heart left her at the mercy of her environment. Rachel had been so absorbed with thoughts of Amy. the boy she had met in the lifts." The lift whined away leaving her alone in the lobby but for his oppressive words.

That's what Cat will be like. and the EEG scan showed no trauma to the brain. He says he's praying for her. Rachel's consciousness snapped dizzyingly back to reality at the sight of a tall man staring into her room through its glass wall. She followed the wards corridor through the soft noise of people and hospital equipment until she reached the nurses station. Did he have more right to be with Cat than Rachel did? If he was a priest then it was unlikely. God knows she . Been here every day since she arrived I think. muscles and skin. Most of the figure was wrapped in a large dark and unseasonable winter coat. but she couldn't allow it to descend upon her as each pertinent sign shortened her path to Cat. stalled by the tragic youth of the girl on the bed. "Who is that?" The nurse leaned closer to Rachel and whispered discretely. That time and Rachel's failure teetered on the brink of memory. Cat and God? Cat had hardly been the kind to turn to religion. "In fact Cat has curiously high brain activity for someone in a coma. An elderly couple accompanied in her wake like pallbearers. Despite being in the same room together. The nurse pointed down the corridor ahead of them to Cat's private room. says he's watching over her. but then it had been over a year since she had seen Cat -. She reassured Rachel that Cat was receiving physiotherapy to maintain her joints. Cat would still be out of reach. Rachel was unsure if they were living or spirit. Rachel stood fixed. couldn't be reached. She dowsed her sudden surge of emotion and regained control.she could have changed. It had borne silent dispassionate witness to their last words together and the promise that Rachel had been unable to keep. A nurse walked alongside wheeling the patients intravenous drip stand before her.Chapter Eighteen This drab concrete building. 92 Rachel cautiously headed into the ward." The world moved at half-speed as Rachel processed the information. had been the last place Rachel had seen Helen alive. She stopped and gave way to two porters manoeuvring a bed that held a sleeping patient. while his head was topped by a broad brimmed black hat that shadowed his features. The man flashed Rachel a pained smile of empathy as they followed their relative who. The bright-eyed nurse's cheerily bobbing voice writhed sluggishly in her ears as the woman acknowledged her request to see Cat. "The tests of her blood chemistry came back normal. He stood a dark shape. experiencing reality from the depths of a muffling fugue. Her resolve broke momentarily and a sob wracked her body in one jarring spasm." The nurse failed to register her prompting expression of curiosity regarding the watcher and Rachel was forced to stop her and mouth her question to her. As she spoke to the short stout female nurse she became disembodied. He must be a good friend of hers to spend all his time here. with its high-rise design that was just as brutal and hard in appearance as The Heights. but it failed to distract Rachel from this man's discomforting devotion to his vigil. I'm starting to wonder if he ever leaves!" She widened her eyes theatrically and used up the last of her breath from her talking in a fleeting laugh of exclamation. "Vicar or priest. whether they were dead or alive. almost a silhouette in contrast to the sun exposed room beyond the glass. nothing that currently indicates why Cat is in a coma. but warned her that although she was breathing independently she might be startled by the sight of Cat being nourished and hydrated by intravenous drip and toileted by her catheterization. She swiped an errant tear from her face and shakily filled her lungs with air that was too warm and stiflingly thick with clinical smells to provide any refreshment for her spirit. Rachel studied his back as they approached and considered the nurses words: A good friend? She wondered if she could claim to know Cat anymore than this stranger might.

The regrets poured out of her with an arterial energy: If only things had been different. When your mum -. "You kept him all this time. Rachel allowed her eyes to fall upon the small frame within the covers. As she crossed the threshold she stole a sideways glance at the man who kept vigil. As her fingers found the plush body of the next item in the bag she bit her lip against the emotion that strummed it into a quiver. There was no sanctuary at the cabinet. to have only been there when Cat needed her. trying to free herself from the coma's overpowering gravity to respond. imagining Cat's rage and abuse flailing and thrashing in the depths. She knew that had Cat been conscious Rachel would not be standing there but would have been retreating from a torrent of abuse. trying to glimpse Cat beyond the glass wall. knowing his eyes were still bearing in on her. Her alabaster arms were laid by her side on top of the sheets. She started at finding his attention had shifted onto her with eyes glaring hard and penetrating from a jaundiced bone-tight face. I brought you some things.. The nurse opened the door for her and Rachel thanked her.Chapter Eighteen 93 had needed to. She was beautiful. "I know you don't want me around. "Cat. The shock of auburn hair fanned out on her pillow like a fall of autumn leaves swept around a tree. almost obscured by the sheets neatly pulled up to her shoulders. Rachel gripped Cat's bag and fought from crying. It was clear of well-wishing cards and the vase was empty of water or flowers. Rachel blanked out the instruments and apparatus and focussed on the fresh smooth skin of her face that was blank of expression like virgin snow.. but she found she couldn't complete the journey and her eyes ran a coward's retreat to the bedside cabinet. When Helen. The July sunshine broke through the window and into the plain white room and fell as an ethereal dust hazed spotlight on the bed that dominated the room. Cat looked slight against the large bed. He must be nearly twenty years old!" Rachel braced herself against the determination of her emotion by scrunching her grip on the bear's body. Rachel stepped to the bed and set the cup of hot coffee down on the bedside cabinet. died. "I bought him for you from the gift shop in this very hospital." Announcing her presence made a hole in the silence which began to yawn uncomfortably without a reply." she announced." The weight of misery for . Rachel squinted through the slats of the Venetian blind. it only served as a reminder that without Rachel Cat only had the concern of the strange man outside her room. "Remember Terrence Ted?" She disguised the fluctuation of her voice with a throaty shallow laugh. She hesitantly placed the bag on the bed wondering if her presence would be the shock that would wake a sleeper. With Cat before her the wounds she had inflicted on Rachel's heart were meticulously remembered as a fresh experience. She unzipped the bag and started to empty it and decided to fill the gaping silence with a commentary of the items she had brought. She shut the door behind her and deliberately avoided looking back at the glass wall.. But I heard you were here and I was scared for you. Cat had been against religion since Helen had. to care for Cat as only Helen had done. Despite Cat being comatose there somehow seemed to be a disturbed atmosphere of enmity between them that left Rachel believing that even now her presence offended Cat and was unwelcome. The light was blindingly scintillant along the large chrome cot-sides and the sunlight's brightness over-exposed the colour of the wires that led into the bed from the equipment mounted on a trolley. to have been able to fulfil the promise to Helen. I saw him on your bed at the flat. but the gesture withered and died under the repellent stare of his waxy feverish face.. one was fed with the intravenous drip while a finger on the other hand was clipped to the heart monitor. Rachel registered the sound of the heart monitor with its reassuringly steady rhythm as she followed the cables toward Cat. With her subtle glance exposed Rachel tried to smile at him. She brushed the battered cuddly toy against Cat's hand.when she went into labour with you. conscious that there would be no reply. It was still difficult putting Helen in the same sentence with death.

Rachel peered into the cup and discovered a glistening fractured black crystalline surface. inexplicably weighted down. studying her fingers she found there were slithers of delicate ice dissolving and sliding from her finger tips. He casually groomed a lock of his shoulder length hair away from his face before silencing the machine. She refrained from looking in his direction but the thought of him and his constant glare wore down the barricade she had erected against his presence. despite the eerily strange change to her coffee her focus narrowed to following the sporadic twitches of life that played across her face. She turned her attention to the heart monitor machine. Ignoring the tears cooling on her cheeks she drew a chair to the side of the bed. its electronic blurt had lasted only a second or two and left a buzzer droning in its place. more concerned with what had just happened to Cat and her coffee.Chapter Eighteen Helen and Cat crushed her resolve. "I'm here for you until you wake. her apparent struggle to break from the murky surface of her coma had been defeated by determined undercurrents dragging her back into the depths of sleep. "Don't worry. Rachel sought her coffee to distract her senses only to have her fingers gnashed at by bitter coldness. The exclamation of silence gave way to the calm of the back-ground noise of the ward and brought with it a heightened awareness of the watcher on the other side of the glass wall." 94 A deep personal need for atonement sobered her from her indulgent grief. "So don't be stubborn. Wake up!" Cat declined the order like an obstinate top hat failing to produce a rabbit after an abracadabra." Which seemed good enough reason to worry. A swarthy dishevelled porter entered the room with a machine on a trolley. Her hand recoiled and the radiance of the cold burn subsided as quickly as it had ignited. He unplugged it and disconnected Cat from it with the same casual efficiency he held for the other sockets and connections. his loose blue tunic and trousers sailed about him as he glided purposefully to the bed and apologised for his intrusion. Rachel's shock jogged her cautious touch into a shove and the cup tipped over. Rachel's concentration was shattered by a resonating bang and she snapped round to see the wall of windows reverberating from the strike of the man's palms on the glass." She grinned falsely with a determined old-school hockey sticks stoicism bolstering her words. "Why did you push me away? All I ever wanted was to be there for you." Putting any thought of rejection aside she gripped Cat's hand firmly in hers. It's what she wanted. . So that gives you incentive to open your eyes and tell me to bugger off. seemingly having missed the disturbance Cat's spectator had made. Rachel sagged back into her chair exhausted from the white-knuckle shocks and waited for the flickering charge of energy in her chest to dissipate. but with a caution reserved for retrieving something from a venomous snake. she instinctively righted the cup only to be scaled by a slop of coffee that was hot and fluid again. She jumped as Cat's heart monitor panicked with a pernicious squeal that crammed its jagged sound into her ears. I guess I had better make the most of you not fighting me. Cat's eyes flickered as if she would wake and Rachel sat forward and grasped her hand.. "Well. Your mother wanted to know someone was looking out for you. Rachel followed his stare and found Cat's face was motionless. "The noise just indicates the equipment is playing up. Rachel half-listened to his further explanation. He glared intensely at Cat. She wiped the water on her sleeve before tentatively poking the drink. It was heavier than it had been when she had put it there. Needing confirmation that the drink was indeed unexplainably frozen she poked the cup harder." He nodded his head to the heart monitor. There was a familiarity in his stare: A menace she felt acquainted with. Something about him ate at her instincts.. the way he looked at her.

" The porter connected Cat up to the replacement machine he had brought in and wheeled the faulty machine out. Now we just keep swapping the machines over. At first we thought it was the electrics in her room. this is the twelfth machine she has had. They work again after a few hours. . This is her third room. It was the same fierce intensity she had seen in Harry's face." "But?" "But. As she watched him leave Cat's watcher dominated her field of vision from the frame of the glass wall. "Well. Her skin tensed from an icy plunge of realisation as the mask of the man fell away and she recognised his glare of grim purpose that had haunted her with its familiarity. There's never anything wrong with them.. She quickly constructed the half-perceived sentence and politely asked him to elaborate.Chapter Eighteen The porter persisted.. "She have trouble with electrical gear at home?" 95 A silence pressed itself insistently against her thoughts and Rachel suddenly realised the porter's unanswered question.

"They gave you a difficult time about last night didn't they?" Kelly sagged against the doorframe.Chapter Nineteen 96 Chapter Nineteen The door to Craig's flat opened and Kelly was surprised by the gloom. which still caught a little of the dying light of the day." It might be the first time they spent any time alone together socially but it wasn't a marriage proposal. "Might try without the sling tomorrow. I just woke up. He didn't." Craig rubbed his eyes slovenly and stepped aside for her to enter and shut it behind her. Craig stood at the sink filling the kettle. I think I have been my own worst critic. She needed to be around Craig and Rachel to help her make sense of things. I had to work late and Rachel hadn't called so I thought I would pop in on the way up and see if she had called you." He snapped the light on but Craig still looked grey. She didn't dare to call him a friend. at all?" "No. "By the way" She added rolling her eyes at her thoughtlessness. It's actually not too bad. "You just woke me up actually. "Are you budgeting?" Craig studied her blankly for a few moments before appearing to register her meaning. "Yeah. "Has Rachel called you?" "No. over her involvement with the Chambers.." "How is the arm?" She needlessly pointed to his injury and wished that asking after his injury had been her first question. slouching within her uniform that had been uncomfortable all day after the lecture she had received from a fraught Bill Harris. an event that she only accepted as fact due to it actually being a shared experience. but I'm on edge the whole time expecting them to call. I got ribbed. Been beating myself up all day for getting involved -. "I've had a rough day. the police. It was light when I nodded off. "Oh.." "Don't. although I am not even sure what I should be worried about. "I got a dressing down. I need a good cuppa!" The events of the previous night had changed things." "Easily said. or a predatory threat. I have a monopoly on neurosis. but he was no longer a stranger to her. But. pressed against the wall in the hall waiting for him to take the lead and move into the flat. They walked through to the kitchen. You worried?" "A little I guess. "That's okay. "Still sleeping off last night then?" She held her ground. She released her hair from its tight knot and let it fall where it wanted to. and realised she had taken a discomforting amount of time to decide. Why did I get myself involved?" ." "Sorry. I haven't heard from her yet.for what happened. Fancy a tea?" Kelly deliberated over the offer." "You heard from your people." Craig huffed his words on the tail of a yawn. that sounds good. they had experienced something disturbing together. her sergeant.

" "I know Did you sugar this?" she avoided. "Well we already have the mad medium. I would doubt it too if I hadn't seen it and been half-terrified myself. "So weird. Ugh! Things are so weird!" Craig flicked the kettle on. there isn't much we can do." "Are you suggesting we do nothing?" She bit her lip as soon as she heard the bite in her tone. Whatever is going on is happening here. I feel bad about doubting her intentions now. She's harmless enough." Strangely." 97 "I might just do that. Just after last night. "I know -. I know. so Rachel is probably okay. "Yeah. but felt slightly defensive of Rachel. that was a bit street wasn't it?" he conceded as he returned to his seat and slid her drink over to her.. "No.I keep trying to sort it all out in my head." Kelly laughed. She rubbed her face confounded by how it was most likely her own agenda to get involved with Craig. but unless you know what's going down.Chapter Nineteen Craig shrugged. "Hey." Kelly raked her hair from her face." She rested her face in her hands." He seemed to recognise her discomfort with her openness and got up to make their drinks. "Sorry I wasn't getting at you. it makes it hard to know if we or others are safe or not." . Although I guess we don't even know what we are dealing or whether it is confined to this place. I'm all up for getting to the bottom of this thing. That conflicted dramatically with some very conscious life decisions regarding involvement with men. The uniform you wear What you stand for in the force must make you feel a sense of security. "Maybe for the nineties. "She is nice though. I know. "No." Craig met her gaze and held it until his reason overpowered her misdirected frustration. but it seems that more frightening to you. but she didn't want to dwell on that. because what do we do now? Get a mad medium like Derek Acorah or an Indian spirit guide" her words raced to keep up with her outpouring of frustration." "Yeah. it had been because of him. I would blame me. let alone how to deal with it. I mean where do you go with a train of thought that involves kids going missing and ghosts? How do you possibly follow that up?" "I know." Craig looked at her searchingly. "You still worrying something has happened to her?" Kelly fingered the edge of the wooden tabletop. "You don't like feeling out of control do you?" She wrestled with not wanting to be understood. "'Going down?' " she quoted him with an arched eyebrow. Yet now the Police can't deal with what's happening. "It's hard to feel safe. "One and a half just as you like it. "or the bloody Ghostbusters!" Craig sat at the table and he motioned for her to join him. "Yeah.. but then who does?" She admitted reluctantly as she looked up. Accepting it at face value doesn't even help. not knowing what happened or how. I don't know. especially by a man. "Well.

" "Not really." "Pretty boy like you? You wouldn't get out of there alive. "Your bedroom?" She was surprised that she didn't feel more discomfort. Well you might be questioning your effectiveness as a police officer in this situation. She was quite safe. Knowing Vicki she would have sent me in there after him in a towel to get the money shot. but the light from the red bulb only intensified the depths of the shadows and the dark walls." "So. How did it go?" "Three hours opposite a gay sauna waiting for a straight married councillor to turn up. "Don't see where you would work. "Tea's lovely." . The room was gloomy thanks to some drawn blackout curtains and a net of red LED lights that almost covered one wall. They are not going to earn me a successful gallery space. but then judging from the rubbish compliment he had given her in the kitchen she didn't imagine he was much of a smooth operator." "I know." "Thank you." Kelly's face reddened but surprisingly to her his cheesy compliment dissolved her frustration and she was glad of it. In the grotto.Chapter Nineteen 98 Talking with Rachel the night before had been the closest she had come to talking about her past. "That's not what I mean. A large built woman. No. but if it helps." "Shame. He was a no show. you do look very good in the uniform. "I seem to be very transparent lately." Kelly craned around her. "They're good." "You're welcome. her hand a blur in trying to push the camera away. "Prepare to step into my parlour. but I like them. Thanks. and here she was with her fragile nature exposed again." Craig got to his feet cupping the hot mug in his hands." "I only remembered how many sugars you took" Kelly grinned. Kelly stepped towards the nearest pictures for a closer inspection. "I like this one. They were gritty casual shots of people that didn't seem composed. middle-aged with a beaming smile." Kelly pointed to one of the photographs. just glimpses into frozen moments from people's lives who seemed unaware of being captured in film. your photography job. mainly I work from home." "Is there something you want to tell me?" Craig cocked his head to one side." Kelly followed him to a door in the hall and from the similar layout to her own flat she knew where it led. "Haha. Craig switched the main light on. You have a studio elsewhere?" "Nah. That was the problem. Craig opened the door. The other dark blue walls were barely visible from beneath a mess of black and white photographs that covered them.

She didn't understand his surprise. So if you want to join me it wouldn't be a problem. a soothing warm scent of manliness which she had forgotten could be so comforting. "I'm still doing things the old fashioned way for my personal projects." Craig wagged his injured arm in the sling. but I can't afford the really decent equipment." "Okay. She's great." Craig deflated into a visible slouch that caused Kelly to hesitate in the hallway. Kelly thought she could run up the stairs to her floor with the underlying teenage excitement." "Yeah. Kelly nodded toward the direction of the front door and Craig grabbed his keys and followed her. I'm still trying to keep it rested. he hadn't acted like he wanted her to stay. The bed was dishevelled and lived in. Doesn't really draw the same attention when you are seven storeys up though. Her muscles were saturated with an aching tiredness from her lack of sleep. "Well. She hates having her photo taken. The air was ripe. however my profession is probably the second career to need a red light though. and wondered if she was possessed. "You really don't know me. Dinner I mean." Definitely possessed. she toyed with the idea of leaving. She stifled a yawn and checked her watch. see if she has managed to find anything out." 99 The room had all the typical bedroom furniture. The crushing silences that punctuated her lessening and more desperate monologues were wearing tides that carried with them all the unanswered questions she had . yeah. It was clear that little could be resolved or accomplished at Cat's side." "It's nice to hear someone say that about their bedroom without me having to arrest them. she decided. Irradiated food stuffs prepared by someone else sounds great to me." Craig let Kelly step out past him and he turned the light out and shut the door on the room. "Er. an enjoyment she had forgotten.which would be nice. Rachel's head lulled and she nodded briefly into sleep. They both stood in the kitchen. She experienced a feeling of wholeness that she found uplifting. It's been a long day. clenched them and then opened them again whilst stretching her arms up. I have started off on digital photography. keep me posted. and she didn't know whether he wanted her to. and the shelves behind them were stacked with film and bottled fluids. Hanging across the room was a line with pictures pegged to it. but I have to hire space at a developing studio for my commercial stuff. "Didn't fancy the struggle. She opened her eyes. but set out on top of the chest of drawers and a desk was equipment for developing. Anyway." She said as Craig led her back to the kitchen. I'm only having a microwave thing." "Your work looks good. She found herself speaking. he didn't sit back down. "I'm glad you are feeling okay. now I come to think of it" He smiled." "You off then?" Craig frowned. I had better get something to eat. If I don't hear from Rachel I will give her a call and let you know what's going on. Seven-thirty. It's in my bedroom too. "This is my office. Six hours had passed in her vigil at the hospital and redundancy had settled into her resolve.Chapter Nineteen "It's my mum.I mean that's if you're not busy or got plans. She drained the last of her tea and he took her mug. if I had plans that would insinuate I have a life -. She savoured the feeling as they travelled the six floors up to her flat in the lift. as if she had soldiered on with a wound she had only just realised and dinner with Craig was an act of triage that would help her recover a pleasure that her injury had kept from her. Sorry -.

The carousel of questions in her mind slowed. Rachel leaned one arm on the bed and relaxed her overloaded head on it. the coincidence of Cat's kitten arriving at Rachel's flat around the time Cat had entered her coma.Chapter Nineteen from the hospital and The Heights. Tongues of Cat's flame orange hair flickered wildly about her face from a vortex of rushing atmosphere while her wide and desperately pleading eyes pierced Rachel like javelins. The flesh of Cat's face became malleable putty sculpted by unseen hands into a skeletal face. . Harry's antagonism towards her. and now the mysterious watcher at the hospital. The face of the watching stranger stared out from the fiery halo of Cat's hair with wild venom filled eyes that demanded Rachel to leave. She leapt back from the vision as if it had crossed the threshold into reality. As soon as she registered them they were consumed within the widening spread of coffee. Her young face split into a frantic scream that howled through the air in a banshee cry of rage and torment that grated against Rachel's ears. An uncoordinated hand flailed and dashed her coffee from the side unit to the floor. "She must have been a very good friend. but was pressed flat against the glass. The gap didn't afford her a direct view of the nurse or the watcher. the unknown significance of the rune symbols Rachel had seen at The Heights. A face with dark hollows for eyes. Rachel snapped awake. a nose pinched against its cartilage and thin lips tightly sheathed against a mouth brimming with yellow teeth.'HELP ME'. a picture of tranquillity. 100 There were too many happenings and not enough connections or answers: the poltergeist activity in the Chambers flat. but she could see their ghostly reflections in glass wall of the opposite room. and wiped at the stains with a balled up tissue. Cat and her bedding were undisturbed. The wet of cold coffee registered against her legs as it sank through her skirt. Rachel forced herself to sit up and she stretched her eyelids wide cramming visual information between her lids to keep them open a little longer. She fought to calm her racing heart and chastised herself for her fear." the nurse's sentiment was empathic enough but her tone was challenging. Rachel crept to the door and dared herself to turn the knob that angled the blind encased within the doors narrow window.. Rachel wondered whether it was another vision. She groaned at her clumsiness and at the mess she had made. It was just a nightmare. The black tendrils of coffee stretched out at her feet and formed six crude capital letters. A sobering contradiction of her nightmare. the impossible destruction at Cat's flat. The watcher was not standing passively in the corridor as she had expected him to be since his view had been obscured.. Cat snapped bolt upright from her prostate position and snatched Rachel by her coat collar and dragged her forcefully onto the bed. Rachel's unease with the watcher had increased. She moved to the glass wall and listened. With the vision of a tormented Cat and her plea for help. She climbed to her feet and dragged her chair to one side to assess the extent of her spillage. the intense and mysterious experiences she had encountered in the twins room and Cat's lounge. Emily and now Amy gone. whether she was still asleep when a voice from outside the room grounded Rachel in reality: "Every shift I have to turf you out don't I?" Although Rachel had angled the Venetian blinds closed she knew it was a nurse addressing the watcher outside the room. the sounds of the ward drifted away and the rhythm of her blinking slowed. Every fibre of her body called like a siren's chorus for rest.

The nurse shuffled on her feet obviously uncomfortable with his actions and his silence. Time to go home Mr?" A silence followed and dominated the foreground noise of the ward in a challenge of the nurse's authority. .." the nurse's reply clipped the air like a parting clout round the ear. And I-am go-ing. "Visiting time is over... His hands caressing the surface of the window with his fingers probing and pressing at various points in slow precise movements." "Well. heavy with a rolling Polish accent that was uncomfortably close to her.. "Yshor Malik. There was a slow hissing exhalation of defeat from beyond the glass followed by a measured pace of hard shoes sounding slowly away. as if it was a ritual that afforded him some mystical presence or perception of the room within. Rachel could clearly hear the quiet shrink away from a hissing voice. Rachel relaxed and released a breath she hadn't realised she was holding.Chapter Nineteen 101 listening. "I'm sorry." the nurse's voice came with a determined force. The man eased himself away from the glass wall and Rachel snapped the blinds shut so he couldn't see her. I imagine I will see you next shift.

New-Agers. Craig shifted under her observation and tentatively met her gaze before snapping away self-consciously." he grunted grimly. Mods. props that would immerse her in a world of her own making when she felt she was growing too close to being in the real world around her." . She slumped back into her corner of the sofa and looked at him studiously over the rim of her wineglass. outlandish clothes. Goths. Craig strained forward with his good hand to slide the empty plate from his lap to the table. What you do with your spare time. as if the vitality of his youth had been drained somehow -. Perfect for Kelly trying to start over and find herself. the feel of her clothes. I have heard all about your yo-yo childhood of living in Bath. a little too long to be discrete. She catalogued the tastes. She would save them for the nights when there was no company. Gays. Kelly steadied it for him and guided it the rest of the way. Having a moment like this with a friend or acquaintance -. Kelly would go for a coffee. exotic foods. "Well. all manner of races and cultures. eat at the market's food court. then their decision to move back to Bath when they didn't settle and they missed the rest of the family. handmade novelties and crafts. gulping a mouthful of wine. Kelly found comfort in the meal inside her. It was wholesome and fulfilling. all making pilgrimage to the market and shops that would offer them coffee-culture. Tourists visiting another landmark the city had to offer. She had been fooling herself that she was content being alone. drift round the shops. although she was sure that memories would be of little comfort now she had tasted the reality again. S&M gear and drugs. his skin almost translucent. but always with her Discman playing. he looked haggard. and a thick book in her bag. She was surprised at how much the recent events had aged him. It was in this experience that she found more contentment than her cherished job had ever given her. I just wondered what happens after university. the warmth of her snug jumper and the security of having company.or whatever Craig was to her. the pieces of small talk and imprinted them in her mind as a reminder of what she only now realised she had been missing.Chapter Twenty 102 Chapter Twenty The heavy burgundy heightened Kelly's mood. pale. or someone wanted to share her table in an overcrowded coffee shop. "What?" His face melted into a puzzled laugh. or was showing her more interest than she wanted. After you get home from work. Camden had colluded with her sense that she wasn't keeping herself to herself and was living her life.more than a disturbed night could do. A place that would support your lifestyle and a place where you could pretty much be who you wanted. gave her a sense of completeness even if it might only be for a stolen evening. Then your return to London for university I know how well you did at your exams and you have talked about work" "Work didn't take long did it? Jobs are few and far between at the moment. the energy of the crowds that choked the Chalk Farm Road and the Market was infectious. She loved the long walk out of Camden along the canal to Little Venice. but that served the same purpose as her Discman and book as an escape route into isolation. your family's decision to move here. the smells. "Don't get all maudlin. Camden had supported Kelly's illusion of living life. forcing her to concentrate on the simplest of actions. On a Friday or a Saturday it was difficult to feel alone and hard not to feel alive while walking the streets of Camden Town. herbs. relaxed her body and fogged her mind.

" "Just pulling your leg. if I travelled across the country to meet up with my mates I would be in need of a UN food parcel to survive. going back home would make it look like its not going to work or they would see me struggling.Chapter Twenty 103 "Is this the police side of your aspect coming out? Well." "Yeah" Craig stared down into his wine and swirled it around the large bell of his glass. It would be hard to move back in with your parents when you have been living independently. "No. "What with all the moving around I kind of didn't make any lifelong mates." Loosened by alcohol Kelly jabbed his good arm. "I just wondered about you. do you know me well enough to slap me around? You aren't a screw you know? I'm not your bitch." "The print business? I thought that would be in the right area for you. kind of against school and family advice. but she ditched me in our final year. "Cheeky Bastard. she wanted to get to know him." "Happy might be pushing it. and am either struggling or failing would lead them back into trying to get me into the family business. it takes about half-an-hour. Are you looking for emotional baggage?" Kelly swallowed her sip of wine quickly so she could answer and it went down her throat uncomfortably like a marble. Ugh! That road just leads to the dark side. and how the country should be run and what the youth of today should be doing. while I was at university." "What do you mean?" He shrugged. I get on very well with myself. None of that five-minute microwave stuff. but I think I travel light concerning emotional baggage. on and off. but London feels like my grown up life. Craig rubbed his arm. officer. When I left university all the really good friends I made went back to their own homes and stuff." This was the kind of conversation she wanted to have with Craig." "Sorry. Until your finances are better. We haven't yet. moving out and having my freedom and a different set of friends and my own life and views. I just don't want to go back. The fact I had tried it my way. We all grow away from our parents. "I'm sorry. Not much of a creative outlet. it's enough work balancing paying my bills and buying food. I chose this career. "Stuff. "Bath feels like my home town to me. Truth is there isn't much to say. After being at uni. "No! It's nice to hear someone happy with their life." Kelly's face flushed as he recognised her familiarity. Mum would love me home I think. start preparing a meal at 1725. what you do in your spare time and" she felt so out of touch with being with someone socially. Now I sound like a spoilt kid don't I?" "No. If I have a full day of work I might get home at 1700 hours." "Could you go home? To live I mean. Like I said. Plus my parent's world extends as far as the front door or a trip to the social club or bingoBless them. I keep in touch with a few on email. I shower at 1705. where she could look out for me." "It's the equivalent of working in a factory. work is a bit short so money can be tight. I want to be independent. always promising to meet up." She blurted round a mouthful of wine. I was with a girl for a little over a year. I like my own company. "Do you get lonely then?" "That was leading!" Craig laughed easily. and how the refugee's should be going to another country. Probably just as . going home and facing a morning with mum and dad over the tabloid and a killer fry-up with their opinion of how well my brother was doing.

" Craig arched an eyebrow. Ordinarily her defences would slam into place at the prospect of self-disclosure or the risk of emotional exposure with a man. The fun of the moment ground to a halt like a fairground carousel making an emergency stop. "RUNAWAY!" They both descended into laughter." she joked incredulously. "Well. She hadn't talked about her life in Southend since she had started her new life in Camden. yet with Craig her defences had relaxed. "Nah. "Wasn't expecting that. I guess they . She'll get tired of running from me one day and then we will see what happens. "Were you a nun or an international drug runner?" "No." Craig nodded sagely. avoid it and mock it from a distance. things were good at the start." "So is your marriage the skeleton in your closet then?" Kelly shifted uncomfortably." "That doesn't bother you?" Craig shook his head." she tested the statement as someone might test a limb of a tree before climbing on it. and she was drawn in to taking a leap of faith. I was married. us divorcees don't tend to get branded and dragged through town these days." "What about if the problem can't be avoided?" "That's easy --." Craig gawped.Chapter Twenty 104 well as our homes were quite far apart. his response of surprise delivered unchecked." "Didn't go too well then?" "The divorce bit gave me away didn't it?" Her mood sobered. Mrs Right is out there somewhere. the nun and the international drug running?" "Exactly." She smiled. Just when you first meet someone you kind of fill in the blanks yourself a bit. I haven't really had a relationship or anything since then. just a few sad attempts: not met the right person so far. "So what about you? What brings you so far from the suburbs of the seaside of Essex? What about you before the uniform?" Craig countered. "Yes. "Well. "I was very different back then. "This sounds interesting. "You're a joker?" "Humour is the best defence If you can't solve a problem. "I was a local government worker. "I didn't mean anything by it." "Oh right." he adopted a squeaky Monty Python tone." "Hence." he covered. Probation services.

"Have you ever been in love?" "Yes.he just gave up on it all and didn't go for the positions when they came up." Kelly felt her face colour with her disclosure." "Unrequited. I guess.that was not going to happen without some kind of miracle." "Yeah. I met Ian about nine years ago. "We had been passionate for each other at the beginning. He didn't want to travel. the promotion he had worked towards (the whole reason we had moved away from our home-town of Southend to Romford was for his career) -. she eyed her glass of wine. We were still good mates right up until the end." Kelly arched her eyebrows theatrically. Pretty typical stuff. travelling. eventually he admitted he had changed his mind and wanted to leave it until we were older and make the most of our time alone together. "Yeah. He even stopped demonstrating how he felt" "Oh. She remembered the shame of wanting a satisfying love-life. but we had always wanted a family of our own -. uncomfortably considering how to phrase the continuation of her sentence without straying onto a subject too intimate to be comfortable." Kelly played with the base of her glass. but he made a decision about our life -. We had always wanted a young family and he had changed his mind without even telling me!" "Harsh. We fell in love. "I know about ruts." Craig exclaimed as they both stepped around the insinuated conversational landmine of sex." She agreed but it was too simplistic a truth to explain something so heart-breaking. But that seemed like all we were: mates. All without any explanation or discussion. I practically decorated the home all by myself. I can accept people changing. All the aspirations he had for work. babies. "I never got any answers. "I know.Chapter Twenty 105 always are though. as if love and marriage were symbiotic. Enthusiastic companions -. He lost interest in building our home together. house.and let's just say -. "I can understand how that feels!" "But. masking her discomfort. Things were perfect for quite a while. I know you can expect relationships to lose their intensity over time. The confusion and despair was still emotive in her memory. I don't know whether my feelings were unrequited. were able to have a laugh when the issues in our relationship weren't choking us. marriage. but he avoided talking about the details. She wasn't sure that that was her experience. or he just got lazy. he just seemed to give up on 'us' as a couple. you were married?" Craig questioned. I'm not sure I know. We got on well." Kelly mulled the word over in her mind. the uni girl but on reflection I am pretty sure it was unrequited." It was surprisingly easy to talk.really connected. "Did he still want kids?" "He said he still did. He had stopped telling me how he felt" "What changed?" "Oh. I'm not sure what we would have done with that time as we didn't exactly have any plans left at that point. Started sharing our life together.my life without even . people grow apart. Wanted all the same things together. suspicious of its influence on her tongue. go on holiday or even want to get away for a day trip even. then we got married and it was like he just switched off emotionally." Kelly threw a hand up in dismay. Kelly breezed on with a flippancy she hoped would ease any awkwardness. "People change.

I convinced myself that in a way I understood his decision even though I did not like the way he had made it without talking it through with me. swimmingly. threw our clothes at them told me to go and book a last minute deal on the internet for a holiday. "He was apologetic enough.to seducing him." "But it wasn't what ended it?" 106 "No he said he still wanted a family. cracked open a pot of paint and threw it up the wall. "I didn't want to wait until we decided to start our family before we you know?" "Exactly.Chapter Twenty telling me. "Made from scratch. for he changed in that moment and held her at arms length studying her face." "How did he take that?" "Oh. birthdays or anniversaries as they could afford to buy the things they wanted throughout the year." she remembered how his slurring words had washed over her in potent waves of alcohol as he held her. "I just got more and more unhappy. A residual atmosphere of good times he had had while she had been waiting. charged into the third bedroom. She had been the only one working to maintain their relationship. said that he was decorating now. Three course meal" "How did your microwave cope?" Kelly winced a smile at him. she had clung to celebrations as confirmation of his love for her. "I told him I wanted out. Despite the physical tussles and taunting she had encountered through work. which I had been decorating." Kelly often wondered if Ian had read her resignation in her face and the reluctance in her share of their embrace. He lost the plot. I bought a killer dress. 'You want sex? You want to be fucked? It's all you fucking care about isn't it?' He snapped from shouting hatefully. he had caught up with her at the bottom of the stairs and then Ian had taken their relationship beyond the point of no return and beyond the comfort zone of disclosure with Craig. one night I had prepared a big night in for our anniversary. to kissing her roughly and spitefully . He rushed up stairs." She had fled from him at that point. She had hoped that a bottle of champagne and his favourite wine might aide in him opening up to her about who he was now and what he wanted -. It's not a means to an end!" Kelly nodded in agreement. dragged our suitcases out from under the bed." "He was drunk. Yet with his lack of affection and the complete absence of any intimacy I couldn't see it happening at all" Ian's abstinence had already defused the spark and the tingling thrill from his touch. even though such attempts had failed in the past. waiting and sinking into a depression. she hadn't wanted biology she had wanted passion. and was I happy?" "Oh my god. "He had completely forgotten about our anniversary." she laughed but her humour hung weakly on her lips. and she didn't have the strength to do it any longer. so I hung on in there." Although Ian didn't see the point of Christmas. "That was a catalyst for my decision to leave him." It had felt like a betrayal. I know most couples moan about things like that. "I just knew then that I couldn't be with him anymore. She needn't have worried because when he eventually stumbled in from work she could smell the cloud of alcohol and smoke that clung to him from the bar he had been in since he had finished his shift. scared he might slip further out of character and get violent. Kelly was still jarred and shaken by the memory of Ian's fluid but brutal clutch at her dress that broke the stitching of its seams as he yanked it from her shoulders in a cruel parody of her fantasies. Fed up with what he saw as nagging.

The Ian I met. you beat up men with your truncheon don't you?" Kelly grinned and the serious air around her lifted." "It was. "So." Kelly watched the last flicker of his twinkling blue eyes give way to a dark contemplation that drained the last of the brightness and youth from his face. and I lost touch with my friends before and after Ian and I moved from Southend to Romford for his job. Not as bad as some people's stories. "Well. She had been neglected.a companion -a safety net for his insecurities. I headed into the police. I think that he needed the security of someone in his life -. My mum died a few years before I married. but some nights when she was alone she regretted her decision and worried that maybe she had had unrealistic demands and expectations from love and life. a way to get what he wanted. "When I told him I couldn't be with him anymore he cried. you have heard everything about me" she said quickly before the conversation could darken. but it wasn't an easy route. You had it rough." Kelly thought of the missing twins. "Hmmm. I had to work hard to get where I am with my job and" "You don't need to convince me! I've just heard your back-story. living and breathing the police for seventeen weeks at the halls of residence at the Peel centre in Hendon. I wasn't very close to my dad. had been like being re-born. so I didn't have much left after we broke up." Kelly had emerged from her relationship disillusioned and alone. "People tend to notice the uniform before they notice you. cheap wine. must be nice having nothing to haunt you in the small hours. sloshing the last of the liquid around to tempt Craig. but the decay of their relationship had created a festering resentment within both of them and Ian had realised he had missed his chance to change. mainly because I felt a huge hole in my life and I needed a focus. I needed a sense of belonging. Actually they see the uniform and most people avoid even looking in your direction!" Kelly took a sip. but said or did nothing to persuade me otherwise. I don't know. I felt -.isolated. "No." "And now you're here?" "Yup. And I guess I have an admission to make I also like the uniform. and she felt she had been betrayed." she smirked and held up a warning finger to shut Craig up. So here I am with my TV dinners. Maybe when he got someone that wanted him and needed him he got comfortable and relaxed his efforts. a library of books and a very unpopular public position. transferring his self-loathing for his own inadequacies and failure in maintaining the relationship he had always longed for. he had never raised his voice before. She leaned forward for the bottle of wine and wiggled it. "I know it must seem like I have hidden myself away." "Was he gay and depressed or something?" Kelly broke into a brief laugh. His violence had been out of character. There was no physical intention in his attack and Kelly had easily fought him off with a simple shove. "No skeletons in your cupboard then? You're lucky. . Enrolling in the police.Chapter Twenty 107 pawing her naked flesh through her destroyed dress. but it's just a relationship break-up story. He offered up his glass and she filled it. and the magic I fell for was just a lure. It's sad.

The sheets. His breathing was heavy. Craig awoke to the sound of screaming He realised it was his voice and stopped himself. It seemed hopeless to escape the green light. He would have to endure the tormenting visions that would come with the light. he slept peacefully enough except for the twitching ticks that played across his face. he knew it should be an irrational connection to make. Who and where Craig couldn't know. Craig's heart thudded in his chest. unsure how or why he would act against his instinct to get out of the room and actually move closer to him. Craig was distracted by movement at his side. the sheets dark and glossy with blood. he appeared to be middle-aged. He glimpsed a figure standing tall and as black as the shadows. his blood racing. Craig turned sharply. his panic increased. The colour consumed the darkness until everything was green. The room was lit up briefly by lightning storming beyond his window. How would he explain being there to the man? How would he explain watching the man sleep? The man's eyes fixed upon him. Craig's instinct was to run to the door he was sure was behind him. The covers were clenched in the man's fist. The creature snapped its head sharply towards the man. its rotting skeletal face lurching into clarity with the white light flaring through the window. a relief in the dark. sleeping. Craig was startled from his observation by the man's eyes flicking open. and a call to the police would only be treated as a crank call. its emaciated fingers wrapped round the handle of a vicious looking saw. his position in the room shifted unnaturally. the creatures face was grey skeletal and ragged. his dark tan. A hand reached past him. it looked as if at some point he had wrestled with something in his dreams. his mind raced. then widened in terror. were creased and untucked so that they barely covered his body and legs. He could see the man more clearly. Its other hand held up the man's severed left leg like a trophy. its jaw dropped open in a silent mocking laugh. weathered by sun and life. as if he had changed vantage points and the arm and its owner were further away from him. Thick black stubble reached high up his cheeks joining the close-cropped fuzz of his hair. a man lay prostrate in bed. the saw stained and snagged with gristly morsels of glistening flesh. glittering grey and silver strands caught the flickering light. they sharpened. It had grown from a diluted patch in the dark to a brilliant luminance that threatened to overwhelm him. The man's eyes found Craig in the dark. desperate not to be discovered in this stranger's room. . yet he could not turn away from the sleeping man. black holes in the shadow of its top hat.Chapter Twenty 108 Chapter Twenty One Craig swam through the blank black void of sleep that pressed itself against his conscious self in a cloying mire. Craig suddenly realised that the details were easier to see as he was now suddenly closer to the man. Lightning flickered and lit up his room for the briefest of seconds. The light washed over him and left the image of a room in his mind. A cruel twisted and decayed hand. He was lost in his dreams and he couldn't surface. his face rough dark and wrinkled. he could picture him in a labourers fluorescents. His movement hadn't disturbed him. Craig thought he recognised him as a random face from the flats. but realising there was a storm tearing up the night just like in his nightmare he knew that somewhere in the building a man was being dismantled in his bed. He couldn't rush to his aide. valance and top sheet. exposing his sweat drenched tee-shirt and shorts. It was useless to resist. but he couldn't move. Its eyes. In a moment the room changed and the figure was crouching at the bed. the man was writhing and screaming silently. were on Craig. the man did not move. All Craig could do would be to spend the last few hours of the night convincing himself it was just a nightmare. In the gloom Craig could make out that it was a bedroom. A nightmare? Craig wondered if the man dreamt of Craig approaching him in his sleep. thick limbs and stout body suggestive of outdoors heavy manual work.

except for those mornings where passion delayed them. Friendly conversation had fallen into suspicious and fearful whispers.Chapter Twenty 109 Mary Korben reached for the butcher's knife. She returned to the kitchen and reached for her own grapefruit from the bowl. Even down to the little things. The older generation no longer lingered on the hall in the hope of conversation. The juice glistened in the bright morning light that angled through the window and she found her gaze lingering curiously. but she couldn't escape comparing their marriage to her friend's relationships where she just hadn't seen such openness and co-operation.as always. They enjoyed mutual friends as well as their own. Mary knew it was pride. Mary took the two halves of fruit and served them to Roger and he smiled back at her and pushed his paper to one side. her mind a ruin as she found her hands . Twenty-two years of marriage and life followed the same path today as it did yesterday and almost every preceding day. Even when the storm had awoken her in the night from a nightmare she couldn't remember. On time -. She glanced at the clock: 8. she found comfort in the rituals and routines of their marriage as she always did when something outside of their relationship troubled her. thinking about Roger and their relationship had helped her slip back to sleep. Mary had woken and been strangely distracted by thoughts of her environment. both free to go out when they wanted without any pettiness or jealousy. would take his seat at the dining table in the lounge as was routine. They spoiled each other with gifts and attention. There was trust and with that: Security. No one could ever know what makes a person tick -. The seconds of the clock over the arch-way to the lounge clacked towards 8am. The only things they kept from each other were their own thoughts. It was uncharacteristic of her. Mary's hands suddenly burned. to see how a person worked. Her thoughts collapsed in upon herself. She would have to moisturise. She heard the rattle of his spoon and plate as he worked at the fruit. It was possessive nonsense! There was no way to get inside someone. She smiled as she heard the dining chair scuffing the carpet as it was moved out from the table and he took his seat to wait for his breakfast with a comforting predictability. Even old flames and temptations hadn't caused them tension.04 am. Sliding the knife from the work-top. under her arms and breasts. while casual nods and smiles of recognition had become wary glances and false gestures of friendly acknowledgement. and the sounds of children playing or the bravado of teenagers in the grounds or the stairwells no longer rode the breeze or lashed at the quiet summer air. However. Was that her thought? Why did it matter that they had separate unreadable thoughts? You could never know someone completely -. but equally they had made it through some financially limited times when Roger had been off work. as if the fruit in her firm grip was the intense focus for some art house short film. Community spirit had dissolved. She bit her lip in guilty punishment for her negative thoughts. A cold film of sweat formed on her forehead. the metal sang in her ears in a protracted note that resonated with an unnatural lingering of detail. She was brought back to real time by Roger's paper rustling. The grapefruit juice found the cracks in her dry skin with wasp stinging fire. they shared them equally. They were close but didn't live in each other's pockets.she had no reason to doubt him. Mary cleaved a grapefruit in two and the sound of the slicing blade rang out in the quiet of the flat with an abruptness and noise that startled her even though it had been caused through her action. and she had felt as scared of the dark and of storms as she had as a child. shirt and tie. almost in disbelief of her paranoid line of thought. For her and Roger the honeymoon elation and mutual promises to each other had never faded and they lived to share. dressed smartly in trousers. She did know him completely! Why was she thinking like this? She cleaved the Grapefruit sharply.Did that mean she didn't truly understand him? That her comfortable security could be on the verge of destruction and she would be completely unaware? She chastised herself. frustrated with herself and her sour turn of thoughts. like chores. Any moment Roger. nurture and enhance each other's lives.

Mary stumbled forward and the light glittered on Rogers' staring still eyes. Tiny nicks and cuts to her knuckles and fingers announced their presence beneath the blood with flaring pain. an illusion supported by her hand and knife being a solid colour of red. gagging for a moment but not being sick. observing. It watched from above. as if underfoot. He stared emptily at the ceiling. Mary jumped back from the alien grotesque before her.16am. only to slip and slide in the trails of blood in the kitchen that led to the first puddle she had found herself in. unable to offer herself any sense or action. The gaping hole travelling from gullet to groin. but also the mind. The pain of her hands. not just understanding the body. 110 Too much blood. its clatter dulled as the knife fell into a slick of blood on the worktop. She clutched at the sink to steady herself and her awareness expanded. He lay spread-eagled like a star hollowed out at its centre. The grapefruit squashed on the floor. discovering her feet were planted in puddles of red with her slips tracked into them from her averted slide. predatory. as if it was a part of her. His chair overturned. circling her. She seated herself roughly and the wetness instantly soaked through her pin-stripe skirt and lacy underwear onto her skin in a sickening syrupy touch. Rogers' chest wrenched open. The blood streaked down the bright white tablecloth. Satisfied. to understand what would cause the nightmare. More than to be expected for her sudden small flesh wounds. and dazzled on the pool of blood within the empty cavity. his jaw part-open as if in speechless shock. Mary Collapsed backwards against the wall and slipped clumsily to the floor scattering picture frames and clutter from the sideboard beside her. The oblivious morning brilliance streamed into the flat with tactless promise of a beautiful day. her voice absent with shock. the discarded knife. The plate unbroken and upturned on the floor. Her voice broke free in a howl of revulsion and horror as she scrambled to the kitchen to escape the blood filled carpet. fighting against the very world for the cruel reality that had fallen upon their perfect relationship. She tried to understand her situation. Shattered ribs pried open like double doors. the wash of blood and Roger's butchered body coalesced into a realisation that crashed down on Mary. The clock ticked apathetically: 9. She dropped the knife. her mouth open in a silent wail. The large archway into the lounge crisply framed the view of Roger lying supine on the table. and her feet kicked out from underneath her as she failed to grip the tiled surface. she watched thick blood ooze from her soaked fleecy slippers as if squeezed from a sponge. .Chapter Twenty were gloved in crimson blood. The knife was gripped in her hand with a firmness that crushed all sensation of its presence. the brightness burned the details into her mind with crisp clarity the second it was processed. His arms and legs hanging limp from each side of the table. Mary gingerly transferred her weight back to her feet and heaved dryly. She thrashed and writhed on the floor.

so he drifted aimlessly down the corridor. Her insistence on going alone told him his granddad's condition had deteriorated and this hospital admission was serious. He had seen the lights. . The light lost some of its intensity and Jason saw that it was reflected sunlight in the square of glass within the out-of-bounds fire escape door. He was sure It would wait until then. and eventually he would have to sleep. waiting for the some-thing to come for him. All the monsters that had ever haunted his imagination and nightmares had been flesh and blood. but fear was still with him. and he hoped today would be one of those days. not made of lights. Yet night was inevitable. yet he doubted it would work as he knew solid things like doors and walls were no barrier. Facing the light was not something he wanted to think about either. The hazy light made him think of lazy summer days that promised to stretch endlessly before him. and why the thing would want him. As the thing was light. The door opened further and the reflection reduced. he turned sharply. and that would make him easy prey. and rattled at the window that capped the corridor behind him. His mum had left early that morning after telling him that his granddad had been taken ill and she would have to go and see him in hospital. yet he wanted to keep moving. Brilliant light glared painfully in one of his eyes. he couldn't take in this new anxiety with fear stalking his every moment. but Jason had pushed this from his mind. The bright sun streaked through the window at the end of the hall. the picture on the TV going snowy or his X-box controller rumbling when a game wasn't being played. Pictures she had labelled eerily and simply as 'Mr Sparky'. Jason used the lift button. He was relieved that the light had a natural cause. a lamp switching itself on. and without the twins he had little excuse to leave home. as frightening as they were. 'It' would come for him in the night while he slept and was vulnerable. The hairs on his body bristled and icy dread anticipation settled upon him. The fire door moved in the shape's grip. He couldn't feel safe at home. was now looking for him. if she had been home all day at the flat she would not have allowed him to loiter and wander the corridors. and he would have to return home unable to explain his fears.Chapter Twenty 111 Chapter Twenty Two Jason reached the top floor. shielding his eyes from the blaze that came from the other end of the corridor. but there was a dark ragged shape beyond the door. haunting him when he lingered in any one place. igniting the white walls in the warm yellow glow of morning. He had noticed something strange seemed to happen to lights and electrical equipment before the appearance of the dancing light. Watching. maybe as it reached invisibly into his home looking for him its energy affected electrical things? He had to be aware of these signs. the lights he had recognised from within Amy's drawings. he toyed with the idea of a mirror being able to reflect any attack. Jason had glimpsed enough of the mysterious lights or auras around his home to convince him that whatever It was. motionless and poised for some unknown purpose half-in view between the door and the doorjamb. He was grateful for her having to leave him. His legs ached from the long climb. He wanted a long distance between him and nighttime. He would have gone crazy being cooped up in the flat. Wind howled from the staircase Jason had scaled. and the car rumbled up the shaft at his calling. Alone. Only fear provided answers as to what It was. That 'thing' had come to Emily and Amy and now they had both gone. Mr Sparky would come for him. they had never been real. After the events of the last few days his paranoia had heightened. And more importantly. Maybe this was a sign that it may take time for it to build up enough energy to physically attack. If he kept moving then perhaps he could outrun it. That was when monsters came out. He fingered the lift button again as calmly as he could manage.

David's voice trailed off and his face tightened as he saw Jason. His flailing fist swung out to full extent but failed to hit a target. dining hall and assembly room at school a place of jibes threats and embarrassment. an intimidating four inches taller than Jason. sickeningly aware of being suspended eight floors up. The car shuddered under the impact. A strange smell accompanied Mikey like engine grease and burnt dust at the back of the TV set. but fear was reserved for monsters now -. David was Jason's age but Mikey's height. Although some of the fear that Mikey had represented seemed lost. a year older than Jason. He was tall for his age. The lift shuddered again as a second body fell from the open lift hatch. He had been at the end of Mikey's shoves and general buffeting. although he was twelve. He also smelled of the warm dusty engine smell.not playground bullies. Mikey was in his year. "What's he doing ." Jason was glad he had failed to make contact. Mikey Kent sat in a crumpled heap at his feet. "That was a good swing. David Renshaw landed awkwardly on his feet in the corner. Jason didn't see or hear the roof panel lift open above his head. but the films had also shown him that he still might not be safe. It failed to come as it should in such an enclosed space with no witness or person to call to. "Sorry about that. He eyed Jason with a look of wariness and surprise. "Lucky you didn't catch me with that punch or I might have had to plant one or two back on you. "That was fun. who braced himself against the wall but seemed unconcerned by the impact. he had seen enough scary TV programmes and movies to know that something could still get at him while the doors wobbled shut. They closed. The cables slapped together with a twang and a shivering echo as the sound of the impact ricocheted through the shaft. The second lift car rolled noisily past and came to an abrupt stop a few floors above their heads. although it was clear from his tone that he wasn't. He and David Renshaw were partners in bullying and had both made the playground. The thought of an actual aimed punch was a painful thought. At least in the lift he could rest in one place and use the lift car to keep moving. There was another expression on Mikey's face that was hard to read. He wiped sweat from his forehead leaving streaks of dark grease in its place on his tanned skin. Jason scrambled across the floor that trembled beneath him." Mikey said. Mikey strolled the small distance to the lift control and closed the doors before punching a button that took the car back up two levels to the eighth floor. He pressed himself flat against the rear wall as far out of reach as possible. Mikey ran nimble fingers through his messy brown hair and wiped a veil of sweat from his forehead. He let out a whoop and shook his head as if his unfashionable curtain cut hair was wet. An edge of respect for his instinctive defence of himself? The lift came to a halt and the doors opened. He had the same slim build as Jason but muscles flexed in his arms as he pushed himself into a sitting position against the wall of metal and plastic panelling. the corridors." he commented breathlessly. He attempted to regulate his breathing to calm himself. As the vibrations subsided he dragged himself cautiously to his feet as if he didn't trust the ground he was on and shot a wide-eyed stare at Mikey. he didn't risk waiting for the doors to close automatically but pressed the door close button. only to have his breath knocked out of him by a great weight slamming into his shoulders and back sending him crashing to the floor.Chapter Twenty 112 The lift arrived with a sharp squeal and Jason darted between the two doors and randomly stabbed a floor button. He instantly realised his prone position and struck out as viciously as he could against his attacker. and because they lived in his building he normally dreaded bumping into them. Although Mikey was one of the kids from school that picked on him Jason was relieved it wasn't the 'thing'. The lift lurched abruptly as something slammed against the roof of the car. Mikey raised himself to his full height. His stomach flipped. Muscles Jason didn't have." He suddenly smiled with a menace that Jason recognised from the playground at school.

While Mikey was the muscle. His mum and dad had yet to get back together and Jason doubted they would. but it didn't cover the cracked lip or puffy eye. "We need someone to push the buttons don't we? Save waiting for someone else to come in. grabbed at it with his other hand and hauled himself up into the dusty blackness beyond. He could probably get back home too. Mikey followed in a similar fashion and Jason soon heard their footsteps scuffing heavily on the roof of the car and echoing through the shaft. "You think you can manage that fuckwit?" The lift came to a stop." David shoved Jason roughly to the controls and stepped up on the handrail and sprung himself up. and Jason got to continue his constant moving around within the lift. He had been. David could inflict verbal wounds with ease. "Brave aint ya. that's right. If he stayed with Mikey and David there was a sense of safety in not being alone. . maybe it was because he was quieter and more studious than most. As if they had sensed his weakness that he was easy prey. "Aw.Chapter Twenty here?" "He was riding the lift when I came in." David lowered his defences but his muscles stayed firm and threatening compared with Jason's wiry frame. Jason nodded that he would do it. Mikey moved between them. "You hear that? All you gotta do is press the buttons. he could make a break for it. he didn't know why." "Not at home with mummy?" He taunted. David and Mikey had always aimed jibes at him. but then he would have to stay there and face being trapped in the flat where that 'thing' knew to find him. joining in with David's laughter and shoving him playfully. "She aint left you too has she?" David's soft blonde hair and innocent blue-eyes masked the cruelty of his mind and tongue. "Why you defending him anyway? You're not going queer on me are you?" "Fuck you!" Mikey beamed. up and down. "Leave it! That's not called for. Jason simmered with his fists clenched while twitching on his toes as if he were loaded in a catapult straining to launch him at David. They would probably be satisfied that they had bullied him into doing something he didn't want to do. Jason remembered the day he had cried in class because he knew that his dad had left. Jason was a fast runner. he caught the lip of the lift hatch. His dad had thrown his mum across the room in a blind-rage. "Homo-geek thought he had a fucking choice." David maintained his glower and his boxing posture throughout Mikey's intervention. only his second comment had found a weakness in Jason's resolve. He curled his lips up into a cruel smile. and the doors rolled aside." David was a master at torment. David's face flushed with a menacing darkness. The morning after his mum had an unusually made-up face. After the day he had cried in class David and Mikey had focussed and stepped up their torment of him. the climax of weeks of discrete rows and unhappiness when they thought Jason was asleep or out of sight and ear-shot. Jason knew he didn't stand much chance in a fight and he had hesitated too long. David's height dropped a few inches as his body sagged into a springy defensive stance that would prepare him to counter any move Jason might make." he pointed to the ceiling and then to the floor in emphasis of the directions. losing the element of surprise that might have afforded him at least one blow. you don't have your little girlfriends to play with." David's smile mirrored Mikey's conspiratorially before he addressed Jason. Don't bring them girls into it. 113 Jason ignored the sting from David's lash of spite. It didn't take too many comments about his mum and dad to get him close to tears or into a state of stupefied numbness.

The machinery squealed high above.Chapter Twenty 114 David shouted down a command to send the lift upwards and Jason responded by pushing the button for the fourteenth floor. and the lift roared upward. . The air washed over Jason's face from the hatch and he breathed in the warm dusty smell like that of the underground and found himself taking grim comfort in the familiar role of being bullied.

"Fuck off you cunt. yeah. Her family's having loads of trouble with her younger brother. his fantasies that were unexpectedly made real. We ended up at the very top of the staircase. Danny swatted his hand away." Kevin laughed. especially about Sarah going missing. "Cool." Danny opened his eyes and tried to control a wild smile." he thought of the girl that had somehow gone missing on her way from her flat to meet up with her friends outside. we just walked. Danny kicked his foot hard against the underneath of his mattress." "Yeah. He ruffled his hair that had been flattened by his hat and closed his eyes and let his body relax into the softness of his bed. "Leah didn't want to be on her own last night. Danny asked where their parents were. Kevin clung to the side of the bed waiting for the details. that's why mum and dad were freaked out last night. just playing about and then things started getting hot. He had been doing other things." Danny gave into his mistake of not even calling home. I think they were worried something had happened to you too." Danny flinched as Kevin reached down to thump him playfully but found he couldn't reach. and found they had gone shopping." He ducked away as Kevin cursed at him and tried to hit him again." Danny saw Kevin's eyes sparkle with anticipation and excitement clearly getting off on his story. didn't admit the fear to his brother. "I was with Leah last night. "We were kissing and cuddling. the burning heat. "We did it. Danny nodded a greeting to him then swept his sports cap off and flung it on the swivel chair at the computer before he crashed out on his own bunk. then when it got colder we came back and just wondered the corridors. outside the door to the roof. He heard the springs of the bunk above him vibrate and tense as the weight of his brother shifted. says he's been seeing things in their flat. Danny closed his eyes and thought back to it." "Dirty bastard." . "Anyway.Chapter Twenty 115 Chapter Twenty Three Sixteen-year old Danny Jenkins strode into the room he shared with his younger brother Kevin." He didn't mention that he had cried too. It was locked so we just huddled up there. I think he's like it 'cause people have been going missing." "Shit. When they had called him he hadn't answered. all round the green outside. "What happened?" Danny couldn't control his smile any longer and it curled his cheeks so tightly they ached. he's gone a bit nutty by the sounds of it. so we stayed out as long as we could. She got really upset. telling him that Kevin was staring down at him over the edge. "So what you been doing? You came home well late last night -. who sprawled on the top bunk listening to music through his headphones. started crying about everything. "I mean we weren't great mates with her but she was in our crowd.then you shot off out really early?" "I know I got a bollocking from mum last night. He focussed on what came next.

Anger. "I went to look for her this morning. unformed and anonymous but definitely there. He loved her." "Babe. he would have to go to the privacy of the bathroom in a moment. He wanted to revisit the hot memory of being inside Leah but there was something distracting him. An elusive feeling that frustrated him and teased him. Craig pushed himself forward from the doorway of his flat. He tried to ignore it. See if she was up for seconds. and she had been so worried the previous night he wanted to make sure she didn't regret doing what they had done. but he didn't want to think that it meant she had gone missing like Sarah had. I just let her have it and she loved it." Danny remembered the infinite smoothness of her breasts and how they tensed under his hesitant touch and his kisses. "Then she was kissing my chest and stomach. forcing Vicki and her pointing finger back into the corridor.Chapter Twenty 116 "Before long we were both topless. but it had helped delay his excitement to something he hoped was acceptable. He cocked his head to one side and spoke through a false grin. He needed comfort not games. His lust stifled him. "How would giving me something that you give away so freely. so he was sure she knew how he felt. but somehow everything that annoyed and frustrated him about his fourteen-year old brother came to his mind one memory after another. prodded her finger at his chin and trailed it down his neck and chest to his navel in a play of seduction. I was only saying to myself this morning that all I needed was a verbal kick-in-the-teeth observation from Vicki to raise my self-esteem. it was so good bro!" Danny felt himself go stiff. Ah fuck." He had rung and text everyone on his mobile but no one had seen her." . but Kevin had retreated out of sight so he didn't care. "Cheers Vicki. Something wriggled in his mind beyond the dim possibility and fear that she could be missing. "You look like shit" Craig rubbed his pallid face with his good hand and it trembled slightly with weakness. It washed over him with a scalding heat." he lied again. he had had enough of the teasing. "Then she asked me to do her. not knowing if he was hurting or pleasuring her. your making me feel so much better. not out of a lack of any intellectual or emotional intelligence. wanted to check they were still together. but because she seemed genuinely uncomfortable with them. if I was trying to raise your self-esteem I'd shag you. a holding pattern of endless moves into stalemate that kept their friendship fun without it ending in an awkward rejection." He remembered the feathery touch of her breath and the heat of her tongue on his smooth stomach. but for a brief moment he had meant to hurt her. Suddenly he breached the gap and the feeling had an identity that seized him. There was another feeling mingled with his arousal. I just feel so drained all the time. "I came loads!" he was horny again. The smiled vanished and she momentarily paused in chewing her gum. someone to be there for him." He rested his head on the white glossed-wood and sagged against the door. he had been quick enough to work out that she wasn't interested. make me feel special?" He had attempted to make his words cheerful play. goading him to respond to it." Vicki moved in close to him. However at a time like this he needed someone he could really sit down and talk to." he remembered how cold and hard the floor was. They took turns to chase and run." he lied. "Then I did her. "Better than any wank!" He laughed and played with himself idly in his tracksuit bottoms. His thoughts darkened. as if his emotions were trying to take a shape beyond the mould of his lust. outside of her work she would bolt at the first sign of a meaningful conversation. He couldn't explain why. He didn't know what that meant for them both. Vicki was not that person. Craig liked Vicki a lot. to lose his control. Craig opened his front door and Vicki beamed in at him. "She wasn't home. Parents said she had gone out early. He had been slow and hesitant and worried each time she groaned and grimaced. "Not much patience. that she loved him. We were naked in no time. and she let me unhook her bra. leaving him agitated and uncomfortable the longer he prolonged any response. "Then she went down on me. "Ouch Are you on the Joan Collins bitch slapping course or something?" "Sorry mate.

" Craig laughed and realised she had turned his mood around. He imagined Vicki's direction of potential headlines: CHILD SMUGGLERS. and SERIAL KILLER SLAYINGS. "Awww!" She gave him puppy dog eyes and spoke in a coquettish Marilyn Monroe voice. "It's just the weirdest stuff seems to be happening here.whatever that reality was." "Is not having a full day worrying you? I recommend you to everyone on the team. the walls seemed to draw sickeningly in around him." Craig gave in to her humour. "Nah." "I sleep alright. Craig's panic subsided when Vicki didn't wait for an answer. you know?" "It's not getting me down anymore than it normally does. None would come close to a bearing on reality -. They are fucking my head up. "Not even for me" "Fuck off. you can look after me. He couldn't afford to turn down a job. seriously. It's so bad. You know another couple of kids went missing last night?" Craig shook his head and his skin chilled. but I wake up feeling as if I have been down the gym. "You don't feel feverish." Craig stood away from the door and drew himself into a solid stature. CULT ABDUCTIONS. what can I say? Nah. Anyway you sounded pretty keen on getting here sharpish." Craig rubbed his face." "You always bring things back to sex." "Well. Look." "Jesus. I just keep having those bad dreams. that can wait. What's making you look like you need your mum taking care of you?" She leaned towards him and straightened his collar. "I know. not knowing how to answer her. "I haven't even got the energy for sex. Craig. Cheers. my shoulder has loosened up. "No. You don't look too good. I thought we were meeting later to go down the pub to do something on underage drinking. and I know you do. . we can leave it for today if you want. "You were looking a bit shagged-through-a-hedge-backwards yesterday too. He was revisited by his guilt at denying any knowledge of what had happened at the Chamber's flat.Chapter Twenty "You wish! I think that's what you need A good draining. One consolation though is that I think I should be able to take this sling off after today. I just want to sleep all the time though. It's not like you have a full day. "So come on then. "Cheers" he conceded. What is going on in your flats mate?" His heart trembled. "It's a gift. Despite Vicki's apathy concerning his desire to get into journalism she had been good to him and got him on board any story she could." Vicki slid her fingers through his hair and felt his forehead. You might be going down with something. try and sleep. even though she knew he had been there and been involved. Even though it means you're probably getting me barred from my local" She flashed a smile at him. I got a call from my contact in the local police." 117 Vicki briefly placed a comforting hand on his shoulder." She raised her eyes skyward in an angelic gesture. You freaked me out enough with the drowned geriatric.

there's no one here you can talk to. Balin swallowed uncomfortably as if he was holding back from being ill. Vicki strode down the corridor and addressed the waiting police officer as Stuart Balin." "Her?" Vicki nudged Craig and nodded to the doorway. a sheen of clammy sweat shone from the man's pale drawn skin. but we called for back up when we got here and you just missed her being taken away. "It's fucked up. He imagined a mother and father grieving. sickly mucous splayed from his mouth as he spoke. He knew they would need to be quick if CID were going to be coming. Wife just gutted her husband over breakfast. Vicki's tone was brief and familiar before it became distant as her attention was clearly hijacked by the open door to the flat that he stood guard at. Craig eyed him." He plucked his shirt from his body where the long dark wet patches were clinging to his sides. names of the victim and the suspected murderer. Craig started shooting. When the lift did arrive Vicki prized her way through the opening doors in her eagerness to escape the lift and to get to the story. "Yeah. I said we would be there five minutes ago. relatives unable to get hold of them. Groin to gullet. "This is all we know. sobbing over a child inexplicably missing from his or her bed. Balin retched and put a hand over his mouth for a while before passing Vicki a page plucked from his notebook. "He wouldn't tell me what was going on. A chill slashed through him. Doubled-over bracing himself on his legs as he let the ache subside from his guts. He didn't need to see the crime scene. its whiteness intensified the colour of his carrot coloured hair. he could imagine the excitement of possibly being on top of a story before anyone else. to ingratiate herself with the parents so they relied upon her as their link to the public mind.Chapter Twenty 118 "Turns out a couple of people have done a bunk too. or at the least some great information or quotes to build a story around. at the best it would get her exclusives. We couldn't let you talk to her anyway." The journey three floors down seemed slower with the anticipation and mystery of what they would find. I will call you and get you some more background when we have talked to the neighbours. She pulled him to her vantage point and pointed into the hall at a bloody handprint smeared on the wall. Not shown up for work for a few days. "You got who did it?" Vicki bobbed her head from side to side peering beyond the doorway. Craig was uneasy with the prospect of Vicki blundering into the midst of it all with a front of concern aimed at getting her to the story. She was like a kid at Christmas." Vicki walked backwards to the lift as she explained." Craig caught up with her at the lift. No grieving relatives for you to interview. Details of the crime in graphic detail. He stared at his second-hand food cooling and seeping into the carpet. he had already seen it in a nightmare." He . I called you in when I got the call to come here but this isn't another disappearance. "Floor four. it's a murder. Balin held his hat limply in his hand and studied it awkwardly. "Vicki. Nothing confirmed yet but 'am starting to wonder what's going on. Craig prepared his camera but wasn't sure what she wanted him to capture. as if she could see around corners if she swayed enough. Got a frantic call from my contact about five minutes ago on the way to pick you up and told me to get here ASAP. He hacked up the last contents of his stomach. Vicki snatched the camera from Craig and everything blanched in and out of existence in a strobe of flickering white light as Vicki framed him mid-hurl with a succession of shots. He followed on her quickening heals and readied the camera." Craig's breakfast made a sudden lurch to exit and he ran a few steps from the flat and leant close to a wall before vomiting violently. Just to get my butt into gear and get here before CID arrive.

Balin suddenly lost his battle with the horror of the crime scene and seeing Craig vomit and threw up himself. "or is that lunch?" She laughed to herself and guided Craig onto the stairs at the end of the corridor while Balin struggled to be coherent and swear at her.Chapter Twenty retched again. "Fuck. Hope you didn't do that in the crime scene you" the inevitable insult was censured as the fire door drifted closed. but it is difficult to find any satisfaction from that. baby!" That meant his pictures would be front page too. Call me when you get off duty and I will buy you a pint." The officer held his stomach with one hand and his mouth with the other. Balin! I just stepped in that! Jeezus. Reality was something distant and intangible that swirled around him.don't worry. You have given me all I need for a front page. A deep voice echoed after them. Sorry. too shocked and drained to snap at Vicki for what she had done. . "You need a stronger stomach. and I got the shots of a 'man of the force' doing a Linda Blair -. You got a great shot of a bloody hand print on the wall. basking in her own opportune brilliance. still reeling from his nightmares being born into reality. the pics of you were just for giggles." 119 "Thanks Stu. "I guess this will have to do. "Sorry Stu. Vicki eyed Craig sympathetically and wiped at his mouth with a balled up tissue then shoved it in his hand and ruffled his hair. "I want the pictures of you and Stu losing your breakfast by tonight -." Craig wiped cold strings of saliva from his mouth with the back of his hand. Vicki turned the cameras focus in his direction as he was ill in a projectile manner. "Don't be too fucking grateful Vicki." She winked. Craig found himself bundled onto the staircase as the lift arrived with CID officers.that will have enough impact without resorting to the money shot of a body. only to end up heaving another load onto the floor." Vicki passed the camera back. I don't need pictures of a crime scene or an interview if I have a picture of a copper seeing something so gruesome he losies his breakfast" She made a play of staring at his puke and pointed at it. "This is front page.

gagging and choking on air. With Kevin no longer provoking him Danny took some deep breaths and tried to bring his rage back under control. ripping the flesh. He charged at his brother headfirst. Danny could see the same anger that he struggled with burning in his brother's eyes. that they were children was lost in the red rage that engorged every vein and demanded for retaliation. Danny's patience fell under the hit and his control of the mysterious anger faltered. A flash of pain exploded across his face making his vision go dark. He battered through Danny's blocking arms and his fists pounded against Danny's chest. but it took all his effort to bite his lip and hold back the dark feeling inside him. Danny shielded himself easily. Kevin was determined to keep fighting so Danny decided to ignore his discomfort and put him down again. Kevin leapt from the floor quicker than Danny had expected and punched down into Danny's groin that was somehow still aroused from his thoughts of Leah. one strike caught his face in a stinging blow. body-slamming him against the wardrobe doors before dropping to his haunches from the agony of his balls. The rage gripped his mind and his anger and hate was all that he could feel. the things he could do with his anger. Danny wrestled with the anger that didn't want to be channelled into brief fits. He snatched at the headphone cables that hung around Kevin's neck and yanked them tight around his throat. He struck back with a single swift precise jab that caught Kevin hard and square in the stomach and sent him coughing to the floor gagging for air. Kevin leapt from his bunk. raining down punches and flinging his knees into the fray in a squirming writhing attack. he rasped and choked and screamed a low growl through a white froth of saliva as the cable restricted his air and stilled the blood in his head. and lunged at him with an onslaught of slaps. The silly stuff they snapped and bickered over didn't seem to warrant the punishments Danny wrestled with in his head. but wanted to be unleashed. then red before turning an eye bulging purple. he wanted to laugh the attack off as play fighting. He didn't understand why he was thinking like that. . Although such fighting was a game they had played out many times in the past with each other it felt different this time. They hadn't had a big falling out for a couple of months and he couldn't even remember what that war had been over. how he could make Kevin pay for all the times he had annoyed him. sending the skin of his face pink.Chapter Twenty 120 Chapter Twenty Four Danny puzzled at the images in his head. yet he struggled against them. winded from the blow. Kevin's smaller weaker fingers raked at the thin wire that dug itself a trench in his tender neck. In that moment the fact they were brothers. Kevin's knee found Danny's face and the cartilage of his nose crunched loudly as gristle rubbed on bone. the attack was fierce and Kevin's face was full of hate while his eyes were hard and glassy. a bite that didn't stop until he felt the heat of blood on his lips and its coppery taste on his tongue. bulldozing into his body and hooking him on a shoulder. The slaps turned into thumps and Kevin grunted and hissed from behind his flailing arms like a wild thing. Danny bit hard into the soft skin of Kevin's shoulder as if it were an apple. He rolled from the bed with the crippling pain. Kevin's attack faltered and Danny's arms were freed from shielding himself and became weapons again. he growled and screamed through his mouthful and shook his head. Danny lost control. In a matter of seconds Kevin had recovered and scrambled over Danny.

pumped by a furious heart. but somehow his judgement was off and his foot only clipped the front of his face. the blood burning in his limbs. biting. seemingly unperturbed by the pain. He knew Kevin would be scarred for life from the mirror. Kevin's face and head erupted through the mirror in a glittering explosion of glass and blood as the shards raked the soft flesh of his face. and he himself might never see with his wounded eye. Before the gut-churning vision could sink in with its devastating consequences to his sight. kicking. Danny waited for Kevin in the lounge. unable to judge distances since the blow to his head. Danny's body rushed with the burning heat of his violent blood. steadying it with both hands against his adrenaline quakes. hoping to keep him down. the damage had been done and the fight wasn't over. . gasping for air. He grabbed at the object jutting from his face. a runaway engine beyond his control that refused to allow any pause in the fight to become an end. they were both pushing their young scrawny bodies on. sending him crashing up against the bathroom door. and throwing. struggling. but not enough to do any serious damage. Kevin was suddenly on him again delivering a rain of stabs from a compass salvaged from the carnage. his sanity offered the option of fleeing the fight and end it before it became any worse. knowing Kevin would return to the fight. what they would say. he groped his way into the hall. He turned for the door from the bedroom.Chapter Twenty 121 Danny's face twisted in pain as Kevin somehow struck him in the face with something scavenged from the clutter of their floor. He stood defensively. a determination deep inside him that overrode the consequences. The hand that he had used to reach for his face was slick with sticky crimson blood. flaying himself as he wrenched it free. and his love for his brother and his want to give Kevin mercy. He scrambled away from Kevin who was now free of him and sat pulling the headphone cable from his throat. prepared to run their machines of flesh and bone into broken shredded wrecks to meet their raging hearts demands. Danny ran forward ignoring the blood that ran and dripped from his face and patted to the carpet. nearly vomiting. slicing open the muscle of his left cheek and leaving thorny gashes on his forehead. Danny saw his own reflection in the mirror as he delivered it as a weapon. Each sting of the thick needle punched through his slim triceps into the bone beneath with hollow digs. Again they locked in battle. Danny suddenly found himself fighting the air as Kevin had been sent to the floor from a punch to the face. Danny slammed into the door and the doorframe. Danny ran as Kevin screamed and wailed in agony as he battled to get the jagged ring off his head. but it was too late. how they would feel. He stood holding the vicious blade out before him. The adrenaline charged in his veins giving him a high that urged him to push his body to the limits. He could see the same determination in his brother's face. Everything went black then red. Danny leapt up woozily not wanting to let the shock settle in and leave him feeble. and aimed a kick at Kevin's head. what would happen to him and his brother. enough to send him scuttling across the floor. seemingly reverberating off the back of his skull. pushing. in a dervish that destroyed their bedroom in their efforts to beat the other. but he was unable to stand-down. He thought of his parents. but his crippling anger suggested finding a weapon to finish the fight. sending another white-hot shaft of pain lancing through his eye into his head. his own face staring back like a mask he barely recognised from the bloody mess left by a biro jammed firmly in his left eye. could feel it in his attack. brandishing a large carving knife he had snatched from the kitchen. Instinctively Danny improvised a weapon by snatching a round mirror with a metal vine-work frame from the wall and swung it downward. head-butting. his breathing wracked his body while his heart danced between racing rage and throat wrenching flutters of guilt with the knowledge that things had somehow gone very wrong for them both. the injuries he had inflicted and received. punching. and then a strobe between the two colours before every move Danny made became disorientated and uncoordinated. pushing Danny to finish the fight. Danny punched Kevin with a rock of a fist. The consequences tugged at his insides like fishhooks in flesh but they failed to quench the fire in his chest and the wrath that ached in his head. Danny gagged and let go of the object. ricocheting off of nerves he never knew existed.

the tip of the blade protruding from his soft scalp. The anger now gone as quickly as it had formed as if he had been switched on and turned off like a rampaging toy robot. only the guilt and the fear remained for within his paralysed and shattered body. invisible. his chest wheezing from his punctured lung. "Vi -. racing at him." "No." Ken had always been supportive of her and Will. you have already done enough. emotionless. "I do have a speaker phone.I know you kept the partners off my back. splitting his tongue." "Possibly not." His smooth voice melted within a warm laugh. With the last energy his ragged lungs could offer Danny punched upward with his fist at Kevin and collapsed on his side. Although Will might have been as British as fish and chips. his arms flailed about his head from the blow that left his brain in shock and panic. shattering three in one blow. and now Billy I just want you to know that I will still be dedicated to my job when I return. . Kevin dropped his bat instantly and staggered briefly. I am okay. Unless you know where the volume controls are on babies. When my maternity leave is over my mum is going to look after Billy. It would return later to witness the return of the parents and monitor the strength of the mind. Virtue Kafar stood in her kitchen with the phone wedged between her shoulder and her ear so she could continue preparing her son's lunch. It stared down coldly at Danny and Kevin. and then his kneecaps were shattered with a solid blow that felled Danny to the carpet in agony. searching for the injury that had caused the surge of pain and now the sudden numbness. Danny's hand and knife was cracked aside in a bone-fracturing swat. Despite the age there was still some discrete bigotry in the private insurance firm they all worked within. And I will be returning.you don't need to be worrying about things like that. She could tell by his voice that he was grinning. Kevin swung his cricket bat down and smashed the edge sharply into Danny's ribs. His arms dropped from their writhing involuntary spasm and he toppled backwards to the floor. You take your time to come to terms with Will being gone. Strings of vibrant oxygen rich red drained from his mouth blotting into the carpet as he knelt double on the floor. everyone asks but really. They had been firm work colleagues and their relationship had become social too through their love of football. you have been really supportive of me since Will. I have to add that you are perfectly entitled to maternity leave. "Ken. intangible. he was black. and his knowledge and efficiency wasn't being recognised until Ken had him transferred to his team and worked on a pathway of promotion for him. "No Ken. Danny's knife impaled through the flesh of his jaw.Chapter Twenty 122 A blur of motion surged through the air from round the corner in a screaming voice that cracked into a childish battle-cry as Kevin appeared faster than expected." "But after Will -. so you don't owe anyone anything. Danny's breath wrenched from his chest and hot liquid bubbled in the back of his throat in a gurgling rasp. while Billy himself screamed his constant cry over the top of her conversation with her boss." She could picture Ken in his immaculate tailored suit with his well-groomed shock of white hair." She had been off for three months after Will had died. broken and exhausted. as if he was standing before her at work. but I'm not sure the partners would appreciate you crooning in the middle of a conference call. with its new understanding of the limits and tolerance of flesh and bone. but Sinatra used to work wonders on my boys.

The idea that she could be accused of neglecting her child sickened her. before that she had only made baby talk. Work is not for you to worry about. she didn't want to be seen as an incompetent or fussy mother that went for help every time her baby cried. Seeing her and what she represented had summoned a miring guilt that kept reoccurring. You just come back when you are ready -. Virtue gripped the bowl tightly in both hands. Will was ravaged by cancer that had been discovered too late. Billy had been the hope that got her through the grief. but I better go and feed him. She raked her fingers through a bang of black hair that had fallen over her eye. The suggestion of neglect had disturbed her." "Thanks Ken. but during those three months she waited to get a part of Will back. She laboured over nutritious home made food for Billy and interacted with him as much as she could to engage his mind. She gave Billy all her love and the love that Will would have given their boy had he been there. and the policewoman that lived in the building had been with him. The fresh vegetables she had steamed were reduced to a brightly coloured sludge from the hand mixer. Which meant her pattern was broken also. she was sure she would get stuck in baby talk mode one day if she didn't get more adult company." To emphasise the point. the people 'closest' to her dying. Only to inhale for a fresh wail. The conversation had made her feel alive. People she barely saw since things started happening at The Heights. she had seen Craig in passing. drawing on her limbs like weights. She scraped it into Billy's bold red bowl while his screams dragged through her psyche like fingernails on a black board. the pitch of Billy's cry reached a level that scored through her head. Days of crying: he woke up crying and he cried himself into an exhausted sleep.your position will be here for you. "Marjory sends her love and she is looking forward to seeing Billy again soon. . Nightmares about things happening to people that lived in the building. Even when she did give into the aching lethargy she languished within nightmares." "Okay then Virtue." "When Billy has stopped screaming I will call her and sort it out. and his tummy tight and bloated. She busied herself against the tiredness that now crept into her eyes.Chapter Twenty 123 "You're a young woman starting a family and you have had the rug yanked from beneath you. "Hush Billy!" He did. it had been the first time she had spoken to an adult that day.she wouldn't neglect him. "Thanks for calling." She said goodbye and hung up." "We have had three boys remember?" "I'm sure they didn't scream like this. that's my role as your manager. After her visit she was embarrassed for another reason: the nurse had questioned whether she was feeding Billy enough as he seemed malnourished." Ken's wife had suffered with breast cancer ten years previously and it had nearly killed her. he had died three months before the birth. Billy was precious to her. but over a few days his whingeing had become desperate screams and he seemed weak and tired a lot more than usual. and tucked it behind her ear. Will hadn't lived to see their son. She supposed it was a reaction to losing Will. Billy was a gift from her Will -. She had felt foolish to take her baby to the nurse at the surgery. Even his sleep was fitful and his pattern was broken. The tiredness was returning. Ken was the only person she knew that had come close to experiencing what she was going through. Take care. only relaxing her fingers when his scream died down into a sob. imagining the people around her. yet at some point in that desperate time they had conceived. Billy's crying through the night had kept her awake.

From beyond the window It watched Virtue lift the spoon from the bowl. and people would be following those stories but Vicki rejected it. "This is what you want isn't it?" she cooed. No. She dragged the spoon against the edge of the bowl and wiped away the food that clung to the underneath." Fitter than his dad. She wouldn't -. only for Virtue to take it from the tray onto her lap. WIFE SLAUGHTERS HUSBAND. "You're eager! You have your dad's appetite. it might be mistaken with old news and it didn't really do justice to the shocking nature of the crime. She liked it. What did Doctor's know? It allowed her to hear the screams of her starving son.Chapter Twenty 124 She sat before Billy and the sight of food seemed to placate him.don't snatch honey. WIFE EVISCERATES HUSBAND.couldn't lose Billy too. She collected the last of the food and spooned it into his mouth and when he smacked it around his mouth and swallowed she wiped his lips and cheeks. It understood and empathised with the call of flesh for sustenance. Virtue leaned forward in her chair and prepared for the mechanical routine of feeding him. She served the mouthful into Billy's mouth. It realised the dangers of not having this need met. She got up and emptied all the food into the bin and popped the dish and spoon into the washing up bowl. before scooping a mouthful of food onto the chunky spoon that matched his bowl. he gurgled eagerly from under the tears and snot of his screams and reached clasping fingers out.Vicki wasn't sure. 'Eviscerates'? She wondered what percentage of the Camden Gazette's readership would know what 'eviscerated' meant." She scraped the spoon round the edge of the dish. "Hey. GUTTED AT BREAKFAST. Virtue gave him time to calm down so that he wouldn't choke on the food. It made her think she leaned forward and planted the spoon in Billy's mouth. Virtue scooped the spoon into the food. Made her think that Billy took the food and moved it around his gums and then swallowed. Billy made a dive for the bowl that was still full of food. Billy sucked the food from the spoon. The headline mentioned the tower. satisfied that he had eaten his fill as he always did. He snatched for the spoon even though he did not know how the bright object took away the agonizing hunger from his belly. "Nice vegetables to make you strong and fit like your daddy. Healthier. Yes. leaving a ring of food around his dribble slick lips. Billy screamed his lungs into his throat in rasping despair at his mother who sat before him. WIFE GUTS HUSBAND." Virtue instructed in a sunny voice as she moved the spoon beyond his reach and beamed back at him from behind a wagging finger. In the latest . hey -. unaware that a single mouthful had yet to reach him. MURDER AT THE HEIGHTS -. The mouthful she scooped into his mouth was rewarded with a giggling coo. It reached into the baby and experienced its pain and the weakness of its life force. but it would be better to emphasise the killers and victim's relationship. WIFE GUTS HUSBAND. She dragged the spoon round the slop in the bowl.

"Doesn't matter. "What are you doing?" "Face me. but he was painfully astute. This was going to be a national story and another front-page story for her at the Camden Gazette. "You. You have a filter between you and the outside world that turns things into stories. and we got a story out of it. "I thought we were friends?" "We are. "No way. "I can't believe this." She grabbed handfuls of his shirtfront and gave him a little shake in a gesture of excitement." He cajoled. Composing pictures in what's going on around you?" She was hurt. You wouldn't be the first to lose your lunch at a crime scene. "Could you say something that doesn't involve you mentioning. I am going to shoot off now so I can write this piece. Truncated column inches. "Face me and you get the pics. she relaxed her stance a little and managed to keep her eyes on him for a while. or whether there's anything beyond that for things to get through to." She faced him. Friends tell each other these things. Do you ever lower your filter?" He waited for an answer but gave up." "That's a bit personal. She couldn't wait to get into the office and get the details down. Guiltily she faced him.Chapter Twenty 125 occurrence at The Heights. "That's it. There was nowhere to hide from him in the corridor." Her voice sounded angrier than she had intended. Sound bites." She stood firm. her stare fixed away from him." "Vomit exclusion noted. Her eyes evasive at first. I am not going to wait around for you to treat them and edit them. You know we are. I only have my filter when I have my camera set up for a shot. You need to get those pics done and I need to write my story." "You coming in?" He pitched his thumb towards his door. This building was excellent for her portfolio. First line tags. Headlines. "I need these pictures today. I sometimes wonder whether things actually get through. trying not to look at him. I just meant to say don't sweat it you're still my man. and you can email them to me at the office. Aren't you the same? Framing things. she wouldn't have much say in the headline. "No. saw the camera was still trained on her and looked away again. They arrived at Craig's flat and he shrugged off her support and steadied himself against the wall. but she could make her suggestions. I think this is the first time I have really seen you. haven't got time to stop and have a laugh. A murder! Front page here I come. Face me." She shrugged. "No need to get all macho. "What?" Still staring at her through the view-finder he told her. her arms crossed." . Ugh You know what. They can say things like that to each other. My lens can see through it." Craig closed his eyes and held up a cautioning hand. Mary Korben gutted her husband at the breakfast table Yes." Craig propped himself up against his door and he was suddenly framing her in the lens of his camera. no activity to distract herself in." "Stop dicking around you fuckwit. She quickly looked away and her face went hot.

After the first couple of times she had learnt it didn't lead to anything. A photo always forced her to examine herself. He wanted her to be genuine with him. Get me those pictures. "You really need to get some sleep. She wanted a boyfriend. She hated pictures of herself. but something in Craig's eyes when they had bantered with each other back at the door made her realise that he was the one that was holding back. she wanted a man to be genuine with her. she didn't allow herself to get close to people just in case.Chapter Twenty She shifted on her feet." She gave in and held her hands up in surrender but still didn't look at the illuminated screen. her first crush. It was -. adapt to what they thought women wanted and Vicki had never wanted that. But not on my money. and turned her back to him and continued walking away. Her smile felt like a different smile. Yet Craig's eyes wanted something different from her. She half-skipped to a dance-tune from her MP3 player as she headed to the fire door for the stairs. he wanted the real Vicki. "Thanks. "No you won't. You will love it. She stopped and turned back to him. and what they really wanted was a best friend they could shag and love. No-one has ever told me that without a motive. At university she had learnt to drink like a man. She had watched blokes change around women. She never really let anyone in. "What do I look like?" "You look raw." "I am tired. Vicki heard Craig shout "KID!" objectionably after her as she popped her ear phones into her ears. It would be nice to see that more often. She never kept still long enough to think about herself and what she was doing. Only she wasn't . "What you said. "Got it. "You know you're beautiful." "I'm going to hate it. what they wanted. Instead she had mastered making guys she liked content with the possibility that sex could happen some time. You're a good kid. Although she didn't have sex like that anymore. Pictures!" She patted both his cheeks and began to walk away as he keyed open his door." She didn't want to see it." She smiled. Craig and you can watch me all you want with your magic lens. She was sure there was mutual attraction between them. it would have been easier to say what she wanted to say with him half-in his flat. She could see what he wanted from her and it frightened her. Natural. occasionally shag without feeling." He agreed. vulnerable." He popped his head back out from inside the flat. pictures. that had stopped anything from happening.nice. chow down a kebab in the early hours of the morning. what they wanted from her when they looked at her the way Craig did. don't you?" She was instantly flummoxed by Craig's question and then startled by the intense flicker of the camera flash as he preserved her expression." He stepped back out into the corridor and she walked backwards so she could still talk. "About being beautiful. At university she had noticed that guys seemed happiest when they were with other guys. Craig. The perfect picture of you. He studied the image in the small LCD screen. waiting. "Don't sleep now. She had liked to think she understood men. She hadn't smiled that way since she was fourteen and been going out with Gavin Parker." 126 She couldn't remember ever being vulnerable. She had often thought that it was their sibling-like chemistry and also her idea that he was somehow a kid because he was two years younger.

She laughed at herself. Devoid of the choice between fight or flight Vicki's terror and panic ached in every muscle and tendon that strained in futile resistance at her incarceration. 127 She could kick herself. not at the foulness of his being. The substance took hold of her in an unrelenting grip and the creature leaned against her. The boggy surface. The Gavin Parker smile she had just experienced was the real her. but instead she was cushioned by a softness that moulded to the shape of her body and pressed against her bare neck with a cold wet touch. a contrast to the stark white and grey of the stairs with his drab clothes smothered in stains of varying shades of evil. Vicki pursed her eyes and mouth shut tight as the lumpy cold concrete oozed over her cheeks and forehead and it smothered her completely. His face a mask of grease and drool beyond what was probably a living beard. A ragged stain of a man stood on the landing. It set solid. The refined crispness of her MP3 played a thrashing Techno beat through her head. It was limp and motionless and there was a brownish red impact smudge on the wall. That was love before she got her heart broken a couple of times. letting the techno beat in her head carry her blindly forward in the routine of leaving the building. even though she didn't understand herself enough to know if that was what she wanted. fused and knitted to a skeletal face that squirmed with pockets of bloated maggots. Craig had helped her find it again. forcing her further into the seeming depths that consumed her. when she had yet to grow up since university herself. her heart soar. but because of the cat that he held in his hands by its tail. Rage and frustration erupted from her constricted chest in a . cooked and raw. The sides of her head became lost in the thickness that engulfed her. She clenched her eyes against the face that made her want to fold and wretch and managed a scream as the cool viscous sensation crept over her ears onto her cheeks. Vicki yelped with the force and braced herself to be winded against the wall. a veil of flies darted in energetic flight around a craggy face of fat and flesh. something less simple and innocent. The dark figure stood tall before her. before sex would change love into something else. The heavy oppression of her black surroundings pressed against her psyche with a crushing claustrophobia. All this time she had treated Craig as a kid brother. She had been right. The 'thing' that scarred her sight pushed against her. Vicki froze in disgust. but although she had a phone with numbers of guys she could go for a drink and have a laugh with she was still single. She swung the fire door open and stepped onto the landing of the stairwell. Before she could let loose a scream at the grotesque that confronted her. the creature grabbed her arms with sinewy fingers and rammed her backwards. black crepe hanging over the brim of its top hat. She gagged and stepped backwards into a cloud of buzzing fat black flies and clutching hands.Chapter Twenty sure how to be that person. She wondered how long Craig would wait for her to let her defences down. startled by her intrusion. matted her hair and crawled across her scalp. He stood motionless. She turned sharply. breaking away from their grip. fixing her limbs and body in place and pressing snug to her face in a tight gritty mask that bit at her soft flesh with the smallest flex or twitch of her muscles. she hadn't wanted guys to change who they were for her. he had made her stomach flutter. She heard the squeal over the electronic tunes in her ears and she stopped dead as she found she wasn't alone in the stairwell. blokes loved the way she was. where the wall should have been. Maybe it was Craig's innocence that drew her to him. its face emotionless. her mix of easy company and unpredictable wildness. dried. the sad naïve softy. She kicked her feet furiously at the ground in an attempt to keep her balance and resist the direction she was being forced in. but she had gone and changed for them and lost touch with herself in the process.

its head cocked as it inspected its work. Dust irritated the sensitive lining of her nose and lungs and crunched between her teeth and gritted her tongue. no more than a centimetre to filter air to her nose. It watched through the undertakers eyes. What had been a perfect white wall was now an area of grey cement marbled with white paint where the female had been. soaking up her saliva. The undertaker stood sentinel. She exercised the only movement available to her and wrenched her eyes open.Chapter Twenty 128 scream forced into a muted groan through the gritted teeth of her clamped jaw. . Her music was joined by the only other sounds. the rush of her own blood and the beats of her frantic heart. curious at how long her mature body could last without sustenance. The grit scratched her lids and the displaced dust burnt like white-hot needles against the exposed surface of her eyes. how long her mind could withstand her ordeal. It had left a small hole.

He answered it while he flicked through the files. not resorting to extreme violence and messing with people's heads. He felt shaken. yet somehow he had been in the thick of the struggle with With what? In the waking world his nightmares. just sensations. his heart pounding and adrenaline surging redundantly and uncomfortably. they ached with the effort of defining his surroundings. he had only been delayed a couple of hours. She would be livid. Was that disregarding curiosity still within him? Had his disregard increased? No. Back then his curiosity had overcome his consideration of the outcome for something he cherished. He stood wearily in the middle of his lounge. He would be hooked on medical procedure programmes. He stumbled through to the kitchen and flicked the kettle on. Kelly? Why are you whispering?" . amputation. it anchored him in sanity. That part of himself always woke up before the rest of him. Careful not to spill his tea he headed into his bedroom set his tea down and popped his camera's memory card into the port on his PC. it seemed out of proportion. His thoughts stalled with a sudden acuity he had not reached before. he checked his watch for the time and found he had been asleep for two hours. quivering in his chest. No. He had not just been the victim. He frowned. In his nightmare there had been an attack. aware of his groin aching distractingly against the tight crotch of his jeans. He wasn't capable of any of the things he had dreamt. flailing from the sofa as if he had physically fought himself free from sleep. He leaned against the kitchen cupboards. That's all it was. He rubbed at his eyes. When he was young he had dismantled his first camera. "Is that you.as if he had been there. Just bad dreams. pain. the play would be joyless anyway with the shame that somewhere someone else might have suffered through his nightmares. He jumped as his mobile rang out. Making himself a tea he remembered Vicki and the pictures she needed. The feeling of curiosity summoned a memory from childhood. He needed a cuppa to wake him up. someone was being pushed. a curiosity and a pleasure from knowledge acquired through the application of terror. smothered. Except that he had long subscribed to the idea that dreams were the window into the subconscious. He was reluctant to confess it even in thought. been the victim. that had been so vivid. but in his nightmares he had felt a fascination. obsessing about every sentence and word. The nightmare victim's fear and terror still lingered. The ache in his jeans subsided. He opened his photo software and the file from his camera on his own computer.Chapter Twenty 129 Chapter Twenty Five Craig awoke with a start. the suppressed or unprocessed urges and tastes. She would be pissed at him for making her wait but she would still be pouring her story into her keyboard about now. if he had a fascination with biology and psychology it would have manifested itself in his waking life. He felt sick. be getting books from the library. The sickening guilt yawned in his gut at the thought of Vicki. He was sure in previous dreams he had even experienced the savageness of their pain -. It had all been so vague. had degraded into shadows and uncertain images and sounds. He ignored it. He was grateful for the mundane routine of work. murder and dissection. his mum had been furious that he had ruined it and in his defence he had explained that he had done it because he wanted to see how it worked.

I am just finishing up some work." 130 "Okay I think. "If you are not busy. He attached them to an email with a brief note. That would be Vicki happy. "I didn't know them either. I need to clear my head. or something he had seen firsthand. "Not really. "Ok then. I better go and freshen up and meet you in the lobby." "In the lobby in ten minutes?" He confirmed checking his watch for no reason except habit. You didn't have too much wine last night did you?" He smiled. thanks. Attractive. "Rachel has an acquaintance that lives at The Heights. Just bad dreams. With several clicks and drags of the mouse he prepared several versions of the better pictures by composing them. He didn't know if it was imagination or memory of a nightmare." Kelly's tone became conspiratorial." "She will? When?" Suddenly concerned she might be on her way up to him. Please come with us. He opened the photographs of the bloody handprint that Vicki had taken. re-cropping them and increasing their brightness." The first picture he opened was of him doubled over with motion blurred vomit caught mid-descent. "No. "I will come with you." "Happenings?" "Rachel will fill you in. No." Craig decided not to mention he had been to their floor to get pictures. I'm calling you from my room so she can't hear me." "You sound tired. but for some reason she is in a coma at hospital and Rachel is concerned about someone who is hanging around watching over her friend. It gets me out of this place. I am scared that if I go with her on my own she will have me believing that Elvis is alive and kicking or believing in leprechauns or something. The wine and last night was nice. that was ridiculous. He didn't fancy her company unless Kelly was going to be with her. Vicki wasn't going to have that one. She always seemed so normal. I know I have seen things now. She wants me to encourage him to move on. I said I wouldn't abuse my power as a police officer. deleted it then punched it back in again and sent it. Craig's imagination had done the rest. but you know I am having a hard time getting my head around all of this. decided on a kiss after his name. Only there have been some happenings at the hospital which she thinks are connected to whatever is going on here. The officer at the door." ." Yet he could see glimpses of the butchery. With a quick bit of editing they were ready. I didn't know them but I had seen them around. had described the scene and the crime. such as it is. he commented to himself before dragging it to the Recycle Bin and dumping it. Did I wake you?" "No." "And you're okay with that?" Several of the images were of PC Balin in a similar pose to the one Craig had been in. No. but Rachel is really worried for her friend. "In about ten minutes when you meet us downstairs. "Did you hear about the murder? It's awful." The smile faded and he rubbed his face.Chapter Twenty "Rachel called in on me. Craig's vomit partner.

"I was in the lift.it came for me. just a silhouette of shoulders and a head -. The cry started above him then rapidly trailed away into a dull crash far below his feet. I saw it. and you aren't in any trouble. that he was in shock and should rest. He saw it was Kelly. "Sorry. ignored how haggard he looked in the mirror and was ready to go. mainly for backchat." Craig put the phone down. but that wasn't going to happen. said how sensible you are and that you have never been in trouble before. It was followed by some hollow sounding thuds echoing from the shaft as if there was a scuffle in the lift. The hairs on the nape of his neck tingled. . See you in minute. Sprayed some deodorant. "They believe you. bunking and bullying. He moved to close the image window when he saw something in the background. He suddenly remembered the picture he had taken of Vicki in the hallway and rushed back to his PC to check it. I didn't see what happened because I was inside the lift. Shame she didn't share that side of her too often. "The officer says they have chatted with the headmaster of your primary school and he has vouched for your character. He recognised the boy but couldn't think where from. The boy looked up into Craig's face. but I heard them shouting at each other. He magnified the area but there was no detail.the head was elongated. He called Kelly. It was like the figure was wearing a top hat. The paramedic checked Jason over and told them the obvious. dear?" Rachel asked. Craig." 131 "See you in a minute. Vicki's discomfort was almost tangible. Not meant to be. Kelly crouched down to Jason's height." After Craig had quietened the hysterical boy down he had found out that his name was Jason and he took him back to his flat and settled him down on the sofa. and had received a few cautions from us for the odd bit of truancy and anti-social behaviour. but she looked perfect. The police officer's conclusion was that David hadn't hung around to get in trouble. fiddled with his hair. Kelly and Rachel arrived at his flat with a paramedic and a police officer. David and Mikey made me ride it while they were on top. He suppressed a wave of disappointment. arguing over something then it sounded like it had turned into a fight and that's when I heard one of them fall. David Renshaw was missing. There was a shout and a piercing shriek that so startled him he leapt back. who had also heard the cry from the lift shaft and had called for the police and an ambulance. Whereas the other two had a record of detentions the length of my arm. his face white and his eyes rheumy and wet." "No news on the missing lad. He couldn't help but grin. The undertaker." Craig hurried down the corridor to the lift and stabbed the call button several times. He closed the image and headed for the front door. She looked so natural. Craig stood by the doorway of his lounge and watched the police officer say a few discrete words to Kelly while Rachel pulled Jason to her side on the sofa. changed his shirt for a tee-shirt. Craig then showed the police officer out and rejoined the others." She rubbed his knee. His phone rang. In the small window of the fire escape door at the end of the corridor there was a shadowy figure. The lift door opened and a young boy of about ten or eleven scrambled out. He could love her like that. I saw it." They had opened the lift doors in the basement and found Michael Kent's twisted body at the bottom of the shaft. checked his watch and cursed. brushed his teeth. He could hear the lift stop above him then the machinery kick in again for it to come down to him. and the police officer had taken his statement. Craig dropped to his haunches and helped him clear of the doors that were trying to close on his legs. "It -. Kelly I am on my way.Chapter Twenty "Thanks. his eyes cold and hard.

desperate. Tell us about 'it'. "It's okay. so instead of grabbing me it must have grabbed David. We know. We believe you. I thought that if I kept moving it wouldn't find me. "It was like I said." Kelly and Rachel looked puzzled." "You have seen it?" Kelly asked urgently." Craig sat on the sofa across from him and Kelly got up from her uncomfortable looking crouch and joined him." Rachel answered. her hands folded on her knees. "They aren't going to find him either are they Jason?" Kelly and Rachel turned to Craig but Jason stared into nothing and answered flatly. "Jason. he wouldn't have believed me. It took him instead of me. "You said 'it took them'. "No. like whistling but it got louder like singing or screaming. There is something going on here. There was something in the light. maybe the few deaths that have happened too. looked at each of them in turn and took a deep breath. I know that means it's near." He stared into Rachel and his tone became agitated. He was one tough kid." Rachel rubbed Jason's shoulder. it was horrible. Something took Emily and Amy. They made me use the lift while they were on top. The lights went out but the lift filled with green light. When I was in the lift the lights flickered and there was this noise.Chapter Twenty Kelly shook her head and Rachel tutted. it's body and face didn't have any skin. or it knocked him off so it could get to David. Craig saw Kelly nod so he threw Jason a wink of reassurance." Rachel sidled up to him again and stretched her arm around him. you gave that police officer a statement that would be easiest for him to accept. "Not at first. just bone and muscles." "It has been after me too. her tone soft but even. it was so bright. "You know there is too. or I would see flashes of green light. Kelly leaned forward. "You believe me?" "Of course we do. It has taken others as well. I didn't want to stay in one place. It was all ready to grab me. didn't you?" This time Jason looked up. The green light went and the lights came back on. I couldn't. Craig decided." ." 132 Jason pulled away from Rachel and sat up. "The authorities are having trouble getting hold of your mum." "You poor boy. I heard his scream go past me. It flew at me with long skinny arms and fingers. It's behind other disappearances. and I was too scared to fight back. The roof passed through it. "I don't know. like someone had opened up the back of the lift and there was a green sun back there. Electrical equipment would play up. It went through the roof like some kind of ghost! It couldn't get me. He must have gotten scared and taken a wrong step. "I couldn't tell him what happened. That's why I was in the lift. that it's coming. their attention drifting back to Jason. tell us what happened." His eyes were wet and his lip quivered but he didn't cry. But I had pressed the button for the next floor and the lift went down. "And Mikey?" Kelly prompted. but there was no argument.

Chapter Twenty "She's in hospital." . You okay with that?" "Yeah. great. I said I would take responsibility for getting you to her. visiting my granddad. One more passenger won't hurt. like I said. We were all going to the Royal Free hospital together. Whittington hospital. "Anything to get me out of this building. I think after what you have been through that's the best place for you." 133 Kelly nodded. so we can take a detour and go to the Whittington." Jason was already on his feet. I never want to come back here. "So.

treats and pocket money.didn't want to spoil him. Hugs had become like this since dad had left. Jay. and although he couldn't hear what was being said. I am going to go and talk to your mum first. and he had remained tall and broad and strong. Kelly. His mum could not go home. "It's okay. his mum appeared and met Kelly without looking his way. who had taken the lead. He spoke more firmly. He felt even smaller as they got closer to the private room that his granddad had been moved to. how he day-dreamed a big brother would be. If he lost his mum he would have nothing left. Both Kelly and his mum spoke quietly. that had been clamped to Jason's shoulder since they had arrived in the hospital. frustrations or sadness. Kelly beckoned for him to join them and he could see the relief on his mum's face. Kelly put her hands on his mum's shoulders and he knew she was telling her that Jason was okay and he wasn't in any trouble. Craig's hand. strong and long. He had to make sure that they didn't go back to The Heights even if it meant telling her the truth. He fitted in his mum's arms perfectly and it was so much more comforting than the hugs Rachel had given him. "I don't want you to see him the way he is now. Craig's hand fell away and Jason found himself rushing to his mum. following the directions that Kelly had been given in the reception area. He would only have his mum left. maybe that was why granddad held back -. She crouched to his height and wrapped her arms around him." The hug tightened. held up her hand and they all stopped. Rachel accepted his story and was quick to comfort him. and Kelly had authority that was respected by others and shielded him. Craig spoke to him like an adult and seemed protective over him. The embrace was tight. and most importantly he trusted them and they believed him. he had always relied upon nanny to do that for him." "I know. He was glad to be with this group of adults. steered him into a quieter narrow corridor." "Your granddad isn't going to be with us long. ones about his granddad dying and how when he did die he would join his dad. With these three he felt protected. Granddad did answers to . Sorry I left you.Chapter Twenty 134 Chapter Twenty Six Jason allowed himself to be shepherded through the corridors of the hospital by Kelly Rachel and Craig. and Jason felt some of that transfer into him. Emily and Amy as another person Jason had lost. she closed the door to granddad's room so that he couldn't hear." "It's okay. When Jason had stayed with his grandparents he had always gone to his nan for comforting any grazes. Being in the middle of the adults and in the large busy corridors he felt small. The fear and worry he had lived with at The Heights had distracted him from other worries. "I didn't want you to be here. or at least something like it. mum. He would want you to remember him the way he was. She pulled away but stayed on her knees at his height and wiped at her red eyes. he saw his mum raise a hand to her mouth the way he had seen countless people do on TV when they had received bad news." Jason nodded and Kelly walked further down the corridor and hesitated at a doorway and knocked on the door jamb. "I am so sorry I left you. He wouldn't want you to see him that way. but the world and the people in it." He could hear her breath catching in her throat and he knew she was going to cry. The grip was strong but gentle. Suddenly he realised that it wasn't he that seemed smaller. It was always her that made a fuss of him and gave him sweets. tell her about the incident you were involved in. "Your granddad's room is up ahead." He admitted after a little while." Granddad had been a military man when he was younger. As fun and loving as granddad could be he didn't do emotions.

Rachel's local and she's really nice. It was really nice of you" "It was nothing really. She laughed at this and seemed to relax. 135 No.Chapter Twenty questions. you have had a terrible day." "I wonder if Kelly and myself can help out. His mum shrugged. You might not agree with my methods. "Thank you so much for bringing him to me Kelly. "I don't want to go home." "I don't know you" Rachel's mouth briefly turned down at the corners. and disapproval. but I would be more than willing to have him over at mine for the night." The last part she said directly to his mum. and she's a policeman. rough and tumble games. Frightened? The only time he had seen granddad sad and scared was when nan had died. and she rubbed her forehead and chewed her lip. I think what happened on top of everything else that's been happening at The Heights really shook him up. He will have to stay here." She struggled back onto her feet and pulled him to her side." "Oh. learning to ride bikes and swim. He has said a few times that he didn't want to go back home. I realise you don't know me." "It's okay you were only concerned for your friend." He watched his mum stare down at him. but I don't know" "Mum! Please! I don't want to go home." "Seriously though." Jason knew there was only Claire and they hadn't heard from her since Amy." Rachel stepped forward. "I can second that. "I am not a police man: just because you have a truncheon it doesn't mean you are a man. I don't know what to do. it had frightened Jason to see him that way. but his mum looked surprised and uncomfortable and she made shapes with her mouth but couldn't find the words. And I can do it without any spirits by just rustling up some tea for your boy and getting some use out of my spare room." Jason knew he would be safe at Rachel's." . but he had reassured Jason that as strong as men were there were times they all needed to cry like children. and a friend of Kelly's. so I am more than happy to fetch him back and forth for you. I know several men that would benefit from that advice. but my motives are that I care and I want to help and I can do both in this situation. "There isn't really anyone. "Mum. or even a few days if it helps. Granddad would not want to be seen vulnerable and frightened. "It's because I'm a kook" His mum looked surprised and lost for words for a few moments. honey. but I never said those exact words. I'm spending the day and possibly the evening with Rachel and I drive." Jason yelped and clutched his ear that was suddenly sore and realised Kelly had flicked it. "It's very kind of you. "Have you got any family or friends that perhaps Jason could stay with for a few days? Give you one less thing to trouble you. I want to stay at Rachel's. I'm so sorry. really it would be okay. he leapt in before she could say no. "I don't know what Jason has told you about what I said.

he couldn't have stopped Emily and Amy being taken. I need to get back into granddad. "I have a mobile.Chapter Twenty She held her hands up in surrender. there was another murder at The Heights today." She said slowly. "Okay." He was safe. I don't want you going there on your own. "Where do you want me to go?" "I'm serious. remember?" "Let's move in there then." She sighed heavily." His throat got tighter and choked his voice and his eyes were hot. "Hey. "You think I am being silly. "You got me. but he had to make sure she was safe too. talking about someone you loved as dead always struck him as having some kind of magical influence on events. and he knew he was close to crying. It wasn't easy to keep himself under control as he spoke his feelings. "Okay. so if you need to contact me" She leafed through her address book. I'm sure Jason will work it out though." Rachel looked surprised at Jason. but just maybe he could keep his mum safe." . honey. How he wanted things to be normal again! "I know that." His face went hot and he knew he had gone red. "I believe this is the number. Kelly and Craig said goodbye to his mum and offered awkward sympathies." The three nodded at Jason and headed for the lift." It was nice to see her be like that with him." He couldn't have stopped his Dad leaving. Dad's gone so our home is different too. Don't go home. and he couldn't stop his granddad from dying. "Even when granddad isn't here don't go home. "I know. but you are all I have and I don't want to lose you." That had been easier than he had thought. Nothing is the same. That's why I'm asking you not to go to that place on your own. it was my home. His mum smiled down at him. Claire and Brian have changed. Are you sure it's okay with you Rachel?" With a fizz of excitement in him he wrapped himself around his mum again and thanked her. mum." "What?" She frowned. it felt normal. "It's our home Claire and Brian are there" "I know that. Even when granddad " He couldn't say the word 'dead'. I don't want us to live there anymore. She thought about it and answered more firmly. and Jason seems more than happy with the idea." His mum looked into space and after some time she looked back at him. "Mum can call me on that." "I know. but I have to confess my knowledge ends at the power button. "I will catch you up at the lift. monkey. I'm the parent. "You are the only parent I have. "Mum. You all make perfect sense. remember. 136 Rachel rummaged in her bag." She smirked and poked him. we can do that. I'm sure they make all this technology to make me feel more senile. promise me one thing." He said brightly and shrugged to show how obvious the answer was." Jason listened as Rachel. If he's happy then I am happy." "Thank you." "I have my own phone. Stay with granddad all night. "Do you like granddad's home?" "Of course I do. "You need to run along. "Promise me. but the building has changed. Look at all the things that have happened at The Heights.

His granddad no longer looked tall. Because he had seen his granddad become a child once and he knew there was no shame in it. satisfied he was out of sight of his mum he cried openly with relief at his mum and him being safe. It showed too much of his granddad's naked body where it didn't fit him properly. his illness made him bony and frail looking. "I love you mum. I love you." 137 "I love you too. angry at the hospital for ruining how he saw his granddad in his head and angry for his granddad. . and the hospital gown that was too small for him looked like a dress." Jason ran to the lift just as it arrived for the others. his mum and himself." Over her shoulder he saw into the private room his granddad was in. His insides knotted up at seeing his granddad that way. and sorrow for his granddad. Not caring at being seen as a child. Of course I won't go home without you. broad. especially when the world had made him grow up too fast. who if he was aware of his situation would be suffering humiliation as well as a painful death. proud and strong. "I'm sorry. In the large bed and surrounded by instruments he looked small.Chapter Twenty Near to tears herself his mum dropped back down to his height and pulled him close again.

But judging by Jason's description I won't be wishing that to be any time soon. I just wish I understood what we were keeping him safe from. He was standing and staring through the large wall of windows into Cat's room. "So do I. that we parted on bad terms. he ignored Rachel's curt nod in his direction and returned to his transfixed gaze in at Cat. Craig and Jason caught them up and Rachel whispered for them both to follow her through to Cat's room." Kelly recognised Mr Malik from The Heights. His face was as skeletal as she had remembered it but it shone with an unhealthy clamminess. Malik broke his stare to watch the newcomers enter." Kelly tossed her hands up in the air in a gesture of despair. while his eyes were slimy ." "Now that we are nearly there I feel very awkward. alone. He troubles me. "It is Mr Malik. nothing out of the ordinary. Rachel caught onto Kelly's direction of attention. he offered a quiet strength and reassurance and was more likely to cajole him with a joke or a nudge to tease out a smile. If you take everyone in to your friend's room I will talk with him. Craig was good with Jason. he wasn't an easy man to miss with his drab grey clothes only fitting him where his shirt buttoned tight to his neck. "No. In time. isn't it?" He turned his head slowly in her direction like a planet's surface rotating its features into the sun. "I think we did quite well getting young Jason out of harms way. Rachel closed the door behind them. the rest of the material hung and flapped around his rakish frame. Dreadful man. At Cat's room." "It does feel good. Even with her being in a coma I find it difficult being around her. and his trousers were belted to his waist. Thank you again. "That's him." "You don't know Cat" As they turned the corner Rachel stepped close to the wall and jerked Kelly after her. But what I meant was that I am afraid that my relationship with Cat is complicated." Kelly's mood joined Rachel's grave tone. Kelly waited a few moments before walking up to him and stood her ground a good arms length out of reach from him. I guess not. dear. to leave someone else I don't know. I am ashamed to say. She had seen him plenty of times in the lift and lobby.Chapter Twenty 138 Chapter Twenty Seven Kelly glanced over her shoulder at Craig and Jason trailing behind her and Rachel in the corridor of the Royal Free. "Mr Malik?" He didn't respond and she shifted uncomfortably where she stood. harmless enough. I'm here to heavy someone I don't know. and discretely pointed down the corridor. fetching shopping or going about his day with his wife. The boy had stopped crying during the journey from the Whittington and Craig was now speaking softly to him. quite." "Yes. "I know him. It feels good knowing we can at least keep him safe from whatever is happening. he was caring but he didn't wade in with the smothering sympathy that Rachel gave the boy." "I think it's me that should feel awkward. I'm sure if Cat knows that you are here it will go some way to bridge the gap between you after whatever happened." He struck her as a pleasant man." Kelly glanced at Rachel expecting an explanation but it didn't come. "You are here now.

Craig and Jason. "How creepy is he?" She hushed to the others over her shoulder as she finished making sure the blinds were secure. But he's not going to be easily persuaded. this is Kelly." "Oh. Mr Malik. I want to keep my head down for a bit after being involved with everything at the Chambers. "He always seemed to be a bit eccentric before. "It is a free country. I live in The Heights. I know I have been out of her life for a while but but some people don't change. and not having seen you with her. He looked sickly. PC Mason. They all live at The Heights. . She floundered for something to say. Is it not?" The words rolled from his tongue with a barely concealed edge of hostility within his silky polish drawl. She tried to ignore an uncomfortable anxiety dancing at the nape of her neck. is consistent. They are unsettled that you are always here. I am not here on any official capacity at the moment.Chapter Twenty 139 and yellowed like raw eggs that might run from their sockets. The relatives want their privacy. The people I told you about. bringing back memories of questioning Rachel the first time they had met back at the Chambers. I'm sorry I dragged all of you here. and one of the many things Cat is. Oh. If anything." Rachel addressed the others again. Kelly decided that any rephrasing or change of approach was futile in the face of being ignored. "I have been asked to speak to you. He returned to staring into the room." She offered him a guarded smile from a place between diplomatic openness and formal authority. and if that Malik is a little heavy on the religious side then I just can't place her having a relationship of any kind with him. "I know you" he spoke as if he was wrestling with control of his memory. He breathed a slow hiss. Cat. In passing. He was odd and it unsettled her." His top lip curdled at one side in a grimace of distaste. I can't get over how he is acting though. but her actions were restricted and it was clear that Malik was not going to speak to her any further. We have met before. but at least you can see my concern. "I told you about the equipment in here playing up regularly. Get the hospital to get some uniformed officers in." Rachel asked from a chair at Cat's side." Without the weight of her uniform behind her approach she felt like she was on weak ground." She stood her ground in the silence that followed. "It's actually nice to have people here with me. He didn't even return to face her. "Kelly Mason. She pushed everyone away from her after her mother died. Craig and Jason looked equally uncomfortable." Facing the others she suddenly found herself replacing one uncomfortable scene with another. "Okay. and when I visited Cat's flat the devastation seemed far more than she could have made alone" "You think she was attacked?" Kelly interjected wanting to be clear on where Rachel was taking them. You could make a complaint. Cat was a loner." There was a twinkle in Rachel's eye as though she relished a mystery." He didn't answer but continued to stare. He made no sign of acknowledgment. I would rather not be involved in an official capacity. but I will be reporting you to security and I will be making sure there are some uniformed officers stopping in regularly so that you observe visiting hours. especially one that inspires someone to stand on vigil for her. Tucked neatly into smooth undisturbed covers was a girl in her late teens or very early twenties. The dark tone that thickened his voice with a threatening strength convinced her that he was capable of being a very different person to what she had previously imagined. "Her relatives don't remember her ever mentioning you before. who lay before her trapped in sleep and dreams. She stepped into the room. At least not by me it seems. but now he seems totally unlike how I remember him. the strangeness doesn't stop there. diseased. shut the door behind her and began snapping all the blinds shut against him. "Please don't feel awkward." "Oh. don't worry! I understand your uncertainty now. but he did not defer to her authority as she imagined. "I have been asked to speak to you about the amount of time you have been spending here. or having anything to do with you it struck them as odd. "This is Cat.

not blood.Chapter Twenty 140 "Yes. then her face changed into that man's. "you're probably appealing to the only sense available to her at the moment. "No of course not. You have to understand that I have been out of Cat's life for some time. Malik's. I don't expect you to be able to explain any of this but you must see why I think there's more than mere coincidence at work here. I was definitely awake. the hearing is thought to stay receptive. She shushed everyone and scooped a curtain of her hair away from her ear and listened close to the blinds. I never knew she had a pet. "I am a relative of Cat's. but Kelly had just heard her being firm with Malik. There is a connection!" Kelly was distracted from Rachel's delivery of yet more mystery by stern voices muffled by the wall of glass." Rachel flustered. After a few minutes she looked up and whispered what she had heard to the others. "A nurse has just got security to remove Malik I think he's gone" The door burst open an inch from Kelly's face. I know how much this is to take in." Ridiculous. furniture that was not just broken but pulverised. but it happened." The nurse seemed to step down her wariness. but largely intact. "I also found that Cat had a cat. It was said that Cat had some kind of fit or episode that resulted in her ransacking her flat." She held up a warning finger.picture frames pushed into the plaster board. A petite blonde nurse stood in the doorway looking as startled by Kelly as Kelly was by her. There was something happening at The Heights and Kelly could not dismiss that so easily. and it was identical to a cat that turned up at my flat weeks before." "These are some people that know her from where she lived. Whether it was a physical or a mental episode the damage was beyond her capabilities. "Oh." The nurses resolve softened fully. It startled me so much that I spilt my coffee and it spelled out 'HELP ME' as it ran and made a puddle. Unless it was folie à deux? Rachel's university friend David had recorded what she had seen. and it certainly shouldn't have been able to find its way to me. and witnessing one herself then she would be questioning Rachel's mental health. but I am the closest she has to family. when he eventually got his recordings back there would at least be physical evidence to support the strange lights she had seen at the Chambers. "I hoped that familiar voices might get a reaction Silly really. I was just taken aback by there . "The most disturbing was a vision that I experienced here. If only it was mass hysteria. Rachel stood up." Coincidence. the nurses questioning eyes flicked over each of them. If it wasn't for other people being affected by equally strange events." She winced. As if realising Kelly's struggle Rachel deflated and sunk resignedly in her chair." Rachel allowed a few moments for what she was saying to sink in. Cat's face screaming at me. Kelly needed to say but couldn't bring herself to. I saw it in a photograph at her flat. and she could see red blotches on her face and neck from her frustration. Have you ever heard how hurricanes can do things that seem to deny physics. "We do try to limit visitors to one or two Are you all relatives?" she sounded cautious. face. Even though her instinct was to dismiss Rachel there was a nagging insecurity behind it. It gave me the idea that he has some kind of hold over her. "Even so we do prefer just two visitors per patient at any one time. such as perforate metal with pieces of straw? Well there were anomalies like that in Cat's flat -. "But not in the sense that you will be happy with. With a hand on her flat chest to steady her nerves.

It was only Cat and her mum. Her attention darted from face to face in wild panic. that proves it." She withdrew and closed the door behind her." the nurse pressed. "What the fuck are you doing here?" She stared at Rachel then snapped back to Kelly and the others. patting the air before her in a gesture for Cat to calm down. pulling them around her and up to her chin. animal fear wild in her eyes. "No. as if her very words were teasing her out of the coma's mire. "Hey. blushed and was flattered and conscious of herself all in one go at Craig's remark. and Kelly found herself startled again. Rachel was momentarily transfixed by it and then composed herself and looked up at the others as if to check that they saw what she saw. "I'm glad you mentioned it. we take the security of patients very seriously. She saw Rachel at her side and released her arm the instant she realised she had it in her grip. hey. I'm quite sure Cat didn't know him. Cat's hand. Yes. Definitely the uniform. and you hear such grim stories these days. "What the FUCK am I doing here?" She screeched like a mad dog yapping at the moon before her mouth snapped shut. her eyes snapped open and she drew in a deep wheezing breathe. "Well. it was clear she wasn't going to be able to pull herself together quick enough to settle Cat down. You had each other." Rachel could think on her feet. You are okay. The lads looked equally startled. rest assured. Cat sprung upright from the bed. and then her mum died. "My 'I'm-a-police-officer' line installed no leverage in that situation. Remember your mum. You are okay. but none so much as Rachel who had slumped back in her chair and was nursing the arm that Cat had snatched at from her deep sleep. "I will leave you to it. Kelly found the blinds at her back and realised that in her surprise at the sudden eruption of activity she had leapt backwards." "She really has no one else?" Jason's quiet voice seemed to surprise everyone." Kelly stated." Cat fixed Kelly with a vicious stare that left her wondering if . Just settle yourself down. Cat tugged at its hem to cover her legs before making a grab for the bedcovers. she registered Kelly and the others and scrambled up to the head of the bed. then nothing will. Kelly stepped forward. "Cat? I'm talking about your mum. I felt a little uncomfortable with him always being here." Rachel continued to talk to Cat about her mum and their affection for each other and Cat's eyelids fluttered in response." Rachel yelped. Suddenly registering the flimsiness of the gown and her nakedness beneath. Kelly was impressed. The look of sheer terror on Rachel's face was greater than it had been when they had watched Amy disappear off of the monitors. "Who the fuck are you?" Her voice had been slow to form but the word 'fuck' and the anger behind it seemed to help her voice return. "Well.Chapter Twenty being so many people in here. If describing myself as being the closest Cat has to family doesn't wake her. Do you know the man that was outside this room a moment ago?" 141 Rachel shook her head. "Well Malik's gone now anyway. At first glance Kelly didn't register what had happened. I would have thought Malik would have bolted. She loved you so very much." "Perhaps you need the uniform. Rachel pursed her lips. but then she saw the pale hand clamped to Rachel's wrist. Think about your mum." Kelly laughed.

I'm sure a nurse will be coming in any minute. "Well. She lifted her foot for a kick at Malik's shins. She didn't allow Malik to recover but charged in with a jab from her right fist that connected hard with the ridge of his bony cheek. pressed her hands flat to the ground. So let us just relax. and she hoped out of striking distance of the knife. sprang herself from Craig and flopped to the floor bridging the gap between her and Malik. Craig caught her with one arm.Chapter Twenty 142 she should be holding a chair before her lion-tamer-style to fend her off. she saw from the corner of one eye that Malik had decided to press on with his attack. Kelly kept herself low. Sherlock! I kind of fucking got that!" Cat hissed. Instead of a kick she had to stamp that foot to the ground to stabilise herself. He shifted his weight to one leg so that he could pitch his weight into a stabbing arc. still in her chair but with a blank stunned look. but in mid-swing Kelly's head rocked and the side of her face erupted in a storm of pain as Malik lashed out an arm to balance himself and caught Kelly fully in the face. but stopped himself as Malik's knife arm flailed out in his direction as he stumbled backwards from Kelly's push. His face snapped away from the blow and cast a ribbon of blood from his mouth that dashed against the blinds. She pulled the heart monitor clip off her finger and a shrill alarm lanced from the bedside monitors. She saw the large butcher knife first. fracturing a glass panel opaque with a crunch. leaving the whole of her back prone to Malik's knife. Craig cautiously sheltered Jason in the corner and from there he made a move to tackle Malik. then saw that it was Malik who brandished it. Suddenly a dark shape charged into Kelly's peripheral vision. and tugged sharply at his other leg. and hung back in the corridor shouting for help. and was advancing on Cat. apparently caught up in the sheets she had cocooned around herself only moments ago. connecting forcefully with Malik's side sending him careening across the room and crashing against the Venetian blinds." The door of the room ripped open and slammed against the wall. In a kind of coma. He was on Kelly before she could rush at him and cancel out his force with her own momentum. and he was taking the most direct route to Cat -through her. his swing broke from a strike into another flail. yelped then let go of her and she realised he had caught her with his bad arm. and she staggered backwards under his charge. The knife didn't come. Cat's legs found their way free of the covers and bunny-kicked over the side of the bed. Kelly regained her bearings and balance. Rachel cried out from her stupor and Cat went rigid as Malik charged across the . keeping the knife away from her and shoved him away. his knife raised. She yelped as she snatched the IV needle out of her hand. You are in hospital" "No shit. it was followed by a pulse of blood that leapt onto the white sheets. while Cat was half-standing and half-propped against the wall several feet away from her. She gripped at his scrawny arms and forced them up. she briefly took her eyes off Malik to check on the two women and found that Rachel was the other side of the bed. She ended up draped against Craig. Jason took his chance to escape and dashed past him through the door. Cat squealed and floundered. Unbalanced. Her trainers squeaked against the linoleum. "You are okay. but Malik had recovered and shoved at the back of her head pitching her into Craig. Kelly halted and held her hands up in surrender. You can hear that alarm" She pointed to the unknown instrument on the trolley making the noise. He ran at Kelly. She fell against Craig and he went down with her in what must have been an attempt to cushion her fall. "You had some kind of episode at your flat. You have been here for a few weeks. The force of the blow and the shock of it coming unbalanced her and sent her following the swing of her leg. but somehow Kelly knew she wasn't the intended victim. shakily she stepped one foot then the other to the ground and stood up herself. Despite her face being mushed uncomfortably into Craig's shoulder. Kelly clambered onto all fours and Craig was at her side helping her up.

Chapter Twenty room with his knife ready to thrust. He gave you quite a whack. but then Rachel had withdrawn within herself since the fight. Cat was still propped up against the wall. Malik was pressed against the glass wall with blood bubbling from his mouth." She shrugged. It was like the choral wail of inhuman voices that built and peaked uncomfortably in Kelly's ears. I never even got punched out on duty. and in a second it was gone leaving only a ringing wake. She probed the inside of her mouth with her tongue and found stinging lumps on the inside of her cheek where her teeth had raked at the flesh. and very nearly through. The whole glass wall and its splintered wooden frame seemed to bow into the corridor from behind Malik. With him there the touch couldn't possibly be anything more than a demonstration of concern." He let her hair fall back into place. Taken away for emergency treatment for his mangled legs. Craig dropped to his haunches before her. then she realised that the hospital bed that had obscured her view was now gone. the glass wall at the opposite side of the room. A current of air followed on the last dying note of the cry. The petite nurse skidded back into the doorway flanked by two rakish porters. "Your eye's a bit blood shot. Even with her distance from Cat's private room she could still hear Cat shriek the occasional obscenity at the Doctor and nurse that were probably attempting to persuade her to stay for observation and tests. and the briefest of seconds later it was followed by a crash so loud that Kelly felt the room shake beneath her feet. While she waited with Craig and Jason for Rachel to emerge from Cat's room they had watched Malik being carefully removed from the room. A Venetian blind had come loose from the window and hung off one of his shoulders. Rachel was still seated. She was instantly uncomfortable and conscious of their prolonged look into each others face and she averted her eyes. Kelly thought it strange that she could see all of Rachel instead of just the view of Rachel's torso as she had had moments ago. She couldn't hear Rachel. Seeing the scene as a whole it appeared that somehow and with some-force the bed had been sent across the room with enough momentum to sweep Malik off his feet and slam him into." His fingers passed gently down her cheek. 143 A sound split the air in a tone that cancelled out the whine of the heart monitors alarm. "It's okay." "Joy! Typical. clearly startled by the wail and the crash. Craig staggered away in an uncoordinated fashion. "Let's see what the damage is. and it revealed the toughened safety glass fractured into a fine sparkling web. She froze and blinked as she took in the scene of impossible devastation." She held her face as her smile was met with stiff resistance from her cheek muscles and a brief sharp pain lanced into her eye and jaw. maybe realising the lingering touch seemed longer than it needed to be. but you don't have any cuts." "It's nothing. But no Malik. but it was only as he moved away that she gained a clear view of the other side of the room. It was then that Kelly registered the hospital bed jutting out from Malik's middle. It didn't deter him and he held a wave of her hair from her face and studied her. A broken Malik slumped forward onto the bed and one of the blinds punctuated the quiet by falling noisily from the wall and onto the bed before clattering to the ground. . She was grateful to have Jason sitting beside her. although Kelly suspected it was the shock of the return of Cat's spite and not the sudden outbreak of violence that numbed her: Rachel was enduring a crushing rejection from Cat. The nurse said it for everyone: "What the fuck" Kelly rested on a bench several doors down from the room where the two porters were sweeping up glass from the aftermath of the skirmish. Her pride ached more. "You might get a nice shiner as a trophy though.

but what that was remained a mystery. and had adamantly declined Rachel's charity. "And what happened in there? Things went all 'Carrie' for a moment. Sorry. would have worked for him against us. The journey back to the flats had been an awkward one. slammed into Malik and drove him into the wall. You gave me something soft to land on." Jason broke his silence. I wouldn't believe it unless I hadn't have seen it with my own eyes. I guess. Sharon had said it was a services night out." She couldn't talk around the outcome any longer. you were doing your bit. "That noise. Despite Cat being weak from the inactivity of her coma. Craig frowned. Before Rachel and Jason had been dropped off at her flat." Kelly had been quick to dismiss Rachel's recounting of the strange things that had occurred around Cat. she recognised the names of those going from her station but had only recognised Zoe Sampson's name from those that worked in A&E. but now Kelly experienced an unease that wormed under her skin. "I wasn't much help in there. I hope this isn't some macho reaction to having a 'little woman' to protect you is it?" "No. then I would have thought any paranormal or supernatural events." She dodged a playful jab. there was a connection with what was happening at The Heights. she didn't even seem to write down much of the details that she had given her. but the bed. "The singing-screaming sound. She had soon found she had no money with her for a taxi. Even if it was I wouldn't tell you. his face ashen and his eyes glazed and lost." "Hey. you might use that right-hook on me. Faced with hours of waiting for hospital transport Cat had accepted without realising that Rachel would . I saw you keeping Jason safe." Craig hauled himself into the chair beside her and his tone grew more serious. it all happened so quickly I am surprised I managed to do as much as I did. It was the same noise I heard when that thing in the lift tried to snatch me. I didn't see it. Kelly was surprised to have been asked after declining so many similar invites before. I don't think I will be challenging you to an arm wrestle any time soon. they had shared the cramped back seat with a spiky Cat." Rachel was right." he joked nervously. "No. That flew across the room didn't it?" She asked hesitantly. it did." She laughed as he flashed a sarcastic smile in retaliation. Much to Kelly's chagrin Rachel had leapt on the offer of her car with only a cursory check to ask if that was okay. and she had had to give a statement to an officer she knew. you did okay. "Seriously. or whatever you want to call them. until her discomfort at the prospect had settled in and convinced she had made the right decision. just a girly slap. and when she made her excuses again there had been genuine disappointment on Sharon's face that almost made her consider taking the offer up in the future.Chapter Twenty 144 she was feeling sorry for herself because once again she had been involved in an incident outside work that needed police involvement." "I wouldn't need to bother with the right-hook. It's not every day you see a bed used as a weapon. the nurse that had led her to Craig when he had dislocated his arm. "You got a good hit in there. At least she hadn't done anything wrong and PC Sharon Ellis had been informal enough with her. It just shot out from in front of Cat. Cat had looked considerably more relaxed after Rachel's departure but was quiet and clearly happier to not be spoken to. "Yes. back at the hospital she had been determined to make her own arrangements to get home. I wasn't prepared for a fight. "If Malik was somehow involved with what's happening back at The Heights. and closed the interview by asking her if she was coming out with the girls Friday night. not the other way around. I have training for situations like that but I had my defences down.

" They arrived at the landing for Craig's floor and they both nodded a greeting to Alec the caretaker who was busy painting out an area of the wall that was mottled grey. but had been non-committal or dismissive." "Yeah. Even if she does have some kind of understanding her hatred for Rachel is so strong I doubt she would tell her anything any way. As Craig and Kelly made their long climb of the stairs to their respective flats they could hear Cat treading away the stairs ahead of them to the top floor. but I doubt Cat will even take her call. it was not only his spirit that had waned. I imagine we are guilty by association. "You're not okay are you? What is it?" "It's just I kind of know how Jason feels." He flashed her a smile and he seemed to force some energy into his eyes. "After you. watch a bit of TV and you can crash on the sofa. an act that must have been a real trial after her coma. Half-way to his floor. No point us being alone with all this. then we could have some dinner." She took a deep breath. "If you have changed your mind about inviting me in for a cuppa I understand.Chapter Twenty 145 be travelling with them. I guess I'm not quite sure what happens now. and she could guess at what he was feeling through her own reluctance to return there. Sorry. yet she had clearly listened to Jason's warning not to use the lifts. Craig hesitated in the doorway to his corridor and glanced back at Alec working at the wall. Despite everything that just happened. I'm tired. When she did she looked too tired to rant and just quietly resigned herself to the idea. then you get some things together and come to mine. and he had been enjoying the journey as if it were a daytrip." "I know. "What?" He shook his head. Despite everything that had happened at the hospital Craig's mood had been strangely jubilant." "Do you think she might talk to one of us. Rachel said she would call her later." He rubbed his face vigorously and carried on down the corridor. but apparently his energy too." If he thought Kelly was going to volunteer he could think again. The car had barely been parked when Cat had said her thanks and goodbyes in one curt sentence as she climbed out of the passenger seat. aided by the occasional contribution of the others at Rachel's prompting. "Déjà vu that's all. "I will try and be more entertaining for you. you can mooch around for the afternoon and do your own thing. Cat had listened to Rachel's recital of what had been happening. His pace had slowed and he looked pale and tired. . She had attempted to engage him in conversation since they left Cat but Craig's answers were short and limiting. that's all. Is that stupid?" "You know it isn't. Cat is a dead end. Craig's mood had seemed to sour as soon as The Heights came into view. when the physical tension between Cat and Rachel had been just inches behind them his buoyancy seemed as inappropriate as making jokes at a funeral." "I think she is likely to treat us the way she treated Rachel. maybe not. "How about we have a cuppa at yours as planned. He gave a distracted nod in return as he fingered a small hole in the masonry before attempting to paint it over." "Hmm? Oh. I don't wanna be here anymore either." Being alone far-outweighed the discomfort of making such a suggestion.

In the brief moment his door had been opened. who once again cried out through catching her with his bad arm. slid down his body. The grime in the material slicked her fingers and caused her grip to flinch which Harry took advantage of and shrugged her off and ran. Yeah. fell heavily to the floor and slumped to one side. Suddenly the full weight of Harry pushed into her. but in the few seconds it took her to regain her balance and realise she hadn't caught Harry he had gained enough lead to key open his door." Kelly and Craig were approaching the lift when the doors opened and Harry stepped out. snarled angrily at her and slammed it closed. She called after him as she bounded to his closing door and leapt at it. The wide cold black eyes of a Labrador stared at her from its bloodied face. I'm up for that. Something flopped heavily to one side within the bag and she pulled the untied refuse sack open to peek in. Panic chased across his face at seeing Kelly and Craig and a black refuse sack slipped from his grip. ceiling and light-shade flecked and streaked with dark browns and reds. sending her staggering back into Craig. and from her position of being propped up against Craig she made a snatch at Harry's raincoat. She cried out with the pain that shot up her leg and tugged her leg out. She gagged and coughed on the smothering smell of decay that helped her understand. she had glimpsed walls. She gave chase. with dread and revulsion. tumbling back onto her rear with a jarring shock. The sound rolled over her. Kelly's hands instinctively reached down to help and beat Harry's fumbled scramble to retake possession of his load. thrusting her foot between the door and the jamb. Harry yanked the door open. Kelly dropped the bag and wiped her hands down her jeans in disgust." Harry's voice snapped uneasily from his thick greasy mask of a beard. pained her ears and fanned a blast of pungent air at her. "What you got here. Craig rubbed at his shoulder. "I do it every time" Kelly didn't waste any time on sympathy." She rolled her eyes at him. what she had seen of the inside of Harry's flat. but in her haste she overstepped and the door bit and chewed at her ankle instead of the protection of her trainers. almost into its ear. its thick dry tongue hung from its mouth. bent unnaturally backwards.Chapter Twenty 146 Craig nodded enthusiastically. "Not been bringing stuff up from the garbage bins have you?" "It's my business if I have. She lifted it to him but her gesture faltered with the bag's unexpected weight and bulk. "That would be great. .

He propped himself up on the firm mattress with his elbows. after which the sack was suddenly swollen and distended by a writhing mass within. even if the abomination it demanded dead was just a girl in a coma. Yshor's lungs inflated in a deep inhalation dragging air that scraped like a flurry of dried leaves through his dehydrated larynx as the moment played through his mind and he screamed. and would have yelped at the sight of his legs could he find a sound in his throat. and beyond that a hole in the floor. She talked him into voluntary work at the hospital. trying to block out thoughts of his legs in case it brought on the wild pain he was sure his legs would be filled with. both appearing to be freshly excavated. Eyes he had loved to lose himself in when he had met her in his youth. That's when Yshor remembered. they had barely been apart since they had wed all those years ago. He had asked her in a state of detachment and delirium. She walked ahead of him. as if somehow he still dreamt. Every fibre of his muscle ached. her voice uneasy as the visibility grew weaker until the only light was the soft green throbbing of a gelatinous sack of skin resting in the hole. She had called him a daft old fool in their native tongue as she jauntily headed down the stairs ahead of him to the basement and into the blackness. Where was Ruth? He could see her in his mind. with deep dark glistening splits in the flesh that ran great lengths down his limbs. He lifted his head and the hospital room blurred and faded while nausea rose in him and lingered. His voice lulled in the back of his throat for anyone that might hear but it was nonsensical even to him as it crossed between his native Polish and his adopted English. He tried to think of the last time he had seen her. standing vigil for a lost soul. He lowered himself back to the bed. Then she had been scared. Because of what it asked he had ignored that voice too. until he came to realise that it spoke in scripture. his beloved wife with her long grey hair with its natural kink framing her delicate face and the blue eyes that had faded over the years. His legs looked pulped. and it was the voice of God. Yet somehow Ruth's voice had stayed with him. His legs were a swollen mass of yellow and purple bruising.Chapter Twenty 147 Chapter Twenty Eight Yshor Malik dragged himself from the boggy depths of a dark swamping sleep. Perhaps he had been hit by a car. but it was another voice. He was a child of God and he could only obey. Would he walk again? Hot tears gathered in his eyes. The darkness had been the last time he had seen Ruth. Each leg was contained within silver cages that had pins puncturing the fronts of his legs holding his bones together. . but he had woken up that morning knowing that there was something she needed to see down there. and when he had refused. His mouth was dry and his tongue was glass paper against his lips as he tried to moisten them. He couldn't think what it was at the time as he had never been down there before. which was an alien feeling to him as they had been brought up in the same neighbourhood together. were schooled together. It seemed like weeks since he had seen her. it explained his injuries. and carried on in her usual chatter about their neighbours and her friends at the over sixties club. On one of his visits Ruth had asked him to do something bad. but all he could see was darkness. It must have been whatever drugs the hospital had given him. He couldn't understand how he had got where he was. worked together and retired together. it was as if she hadn't asked at all. He had told her he had something to show her in the basement. she had laughed at his folly of dragging her to the basement for nothing. The air around Ruth erupted in a blaze of light and hands that plucked her out of the gloom. There had been a hole in a wall.

and dug up the ground beyond even though the exertion had nearly killed him. It had been so small. he had unearthed the dried up leathery sack beneath. Hadn't she? She had been talking to him for weeks. just then. He flailed his arms as if repelling a swarm and cursed the air about him. or the ideas he had in her presence. the carpet was mushy and seeped a black red sticky sludge underfoot. that wife. but strangely his fear and anger had been smothered. Why had he run? He could have explained the dog as something he had found. and he had loved her so much. Deirdra took all the pain. The sights and sounds of the last few weeks came rushing in like water on a sinking vessel: the nauseating soft popping of a cats spine being twisted and broken. the feel of the sweaty warm knife handle in his hand that had worn blisters into his palm from so much work. Tears tracked through the grime of his face as if his very skin was running away. Harry lured those foolish enough to trust him to this undead undertaker. Blood. reality descended upon him. perhaps his mind had given in to popular opinion? He could see something rushing round him. The strange rigid cocoon of unrecognisable bones and calcified organs had engendered nurturing feelings within him. it couldn't have been her. He yelped but it was lost in his manic sobs of fear and madness. her soft voice was sweet to his ears but like a memory of something lost that could never be had again. He froze. and when he returned with more the previous supply would be gone and the sack would be more supple and bloated. The look in his social workers eyes as he gagged on his own blood and slid to the ground dying. and despite the strangeness of the things she had asked him to do. just out of his vision it flickered and darted. So much. Yet she had been talking to him? Now. always just out of view no matter how much he turned and span. As if something had released him and was now watching the results. the smell of evacuated bowels and the gasses from a ruptured stomach. The fantasy-memory of the old house with its gay floral wallpaper and well-kept furnishings was suddenly gone. fear and confusion away. Harry punched the air as he saw her coffin in his mind. He could hear his Deirdra talking to him. she had worshipped him. He hardly recognised the charnel house room as his own. So much blood! Harry remembered. Could it? Was this madness? Everyone he met thought he was already mad. his fear masked it. He became still. because when he touched it with his bare hands it had felt like a layer of his skin had been burned away.to her! Never! Anger swelled within him and he clawed at his face as his reason crashed against his mind.Chapter Twenty 148 Harry knuckled his forehead and paced back and forth in frantic confusion. He stumbled over his own feet and struck his shin against the toppled coffee table. The marriage house was gone and he was back in his flat. All that had been Deirdra. . Harry had accepted that thing so easily within his illusion. and she did everything for him. and with the encouragement of Deirdra's voice he had brought it food. She had been everything to him. He cursed Deirdra's voice and then silenced himself. He had never said such words in front of her -. Deirdra had made him feel like a king again and that overrode every contradictory feeling. the tension in his arms as his blade dragged between resistant muscle. "She's DEAD!" Suddenly he experienced an overwhelming sense of freedom. but he had the unnerving feeling of something standing behind him. It made his skin bristle. he did them. He would shower the thing with decaying animal waste scavenged from the rubbish. That thing scared him. She was dead. his fear of the monster and his stronger fear that if he didn't accept the creature then reality would return and deprive him of Deirdra. He had made the hole in the wall in the basement. all that had been that loving woman. like a movement in the air. His eyes widened. He remembered the silent man in the top hat with the ragged face. the heat from blood up to his wrists. that companion of forty-four years ended in a wooden box. When she had gone he couldn't function without her. and without the blinkering soft voice of his Deirdra and the vivid memories of a life he no longer had. When she had gone? She had gone. The walls were stained and lost in streaks of red and brown. Oh.

his legs burning with the fire of his exertion. don't you? You don't want that for me do you? Don't let them take you away from me. and it was with disbelief that he reached the fire exit. What have I done. tumbled through the door then stumbled back over each other as Harry charged at them with an anguished cry. she never would. Deirdra. The only sensible direction was down. blood red. and it was this clear understanding in the chaos of his situation that made his choice to go up so disturbing to him. knowing that when he broke back onto a corridor he could make his way to the other fire escape and down. to get out and away to escape his captors. What have I done!" He couldn't afford to turn back. but the door held. They were coming for him. His feet punched the stairs away one after the other like pistons pumping him further and further away from the carnage of his ruined life. "What have I been doing?" he cried. The door with the bloody handprints that his social worker had left shook with each crashing sound. Although it had Deirdra's voice. That policewoman. Before he could decline. You can't explain your way out of this. if his body would allow him to maintain his pace and his lead. which is why his choice of heading to the roof where there was no escape whatsoever terrified him. her companion and a uniformed colleague. Run away with me. and with a loud snap the wood of the doorjamb split from top to bottom. Panting. She didn't ask. so he pressed on and committed himself to his direction. He realised that by vomiting he hadn't separated himself from his actions but produced a product of his work to haunt him. They knew. He didn't understand. going up had not been a consideration. "I'm so sorry. love?" "Run. he arrived at the final landing and to his horror he didn't even break pace and pressed on. the doorjamb broke free of the wall and clattered to the floor and in fright he snatched the knife up. . With every step he took he expected to be tackled and pulled to the ground. his feet numb. he could hear heavy footfalls behind him. The plain-clothes policewoman. "I'm so sorry. You know how painful it is to be alone." Deirdra cried. "What shall I do. he seemed to be under the influence of some other will. determined he would turn into a corridor at the next one. "RUN!" Between the first and second plea he had broken into a stride with the knife held before him. The monster told me to do it? The voices in my head told me to do it? They think that this is all your fault. It was red. but he didn't want to give up and be caught." He sobbed to the memory of his Deirdra. it never had been. It was so sudden he barely shielded himself and he caught a handful of acrid smelling oil and digested sludge. A voice filled his ears and his fear allowed him to believe it was Deirdra. her feel. Harry. In the same way that the knife hadn't been a conscious thought. his voice growing to a crescendo as his speed increased. They will lock you up and throw away the key. "They are going to take you away. Run. the real Deirdra that would never have asked for any of the things he had done. "Run. They would arrest him. He passed landings. It was not his Deirdra." The door creaked.Chapter Twenty 149 The guilt writhed in his guts like the maggots that lived in the undertakers face and he vomited suddenly and violently in reaction to his own sins. He accepted that in his weakened state there was only a slim chance of escape. Tears streamed down his face and he howled apologies to his Deirdra as he ran. with scraps of raw flesh sliding through the liquid. it was not her force of persuasion. his heart a jack-hammer at his ribs. but these ideas always came when she was with him. Harry wailed loudly and knuckled his head again. as if it was all some nightmare that he couldn't wake from. Didn't understand why and how this was all happening. but each time he would let it go. his pounding fists seemed to boom like explosions until he realised the sounds were from the front door. They will take you away from me and I will be all alone. They won't just think you are a criminal they will think you are mad too." A split-second after she had answered him his attention was snatched by the large carving knife at rest on the grimy worktop as if it had been thrust in his face as a suggestion.

To wound them so much they wouldn't survive. He squinted in the half-light that the few remaining flickering strip lights offered and found the tube of filler and clattered the door shut and locked it. holding out placating hands. He had been released. sobered and chilled by the updraft of air that whipped at his skin and ripped at his clothes. The woman told the man to shut up. She spoke to him softly. not to please the thing. The air rushed around Harry as his legs still pumped away uselessly with no ground to pedal like he had seen an outsmarted Wil E. The lift doors opened and the stark light of its interior was enough to cancel out the weak green light. Wild panic gripped him and shook him into madness as he saw the landscape of buildings rush into a blur about him. The sense of Deirdra being with him was even stronger." Harry's head split open like a melon. The two police officers piled through the fire exit and stopped. called him names that were true. It didn't want Harry to escape. The thing had left him. It was his eyes fooling him. Harry must be sick. and although she didn't say anything. The man looked angry while the woman looked scared. Alec Jacobs trudged across the basement and fumbled with a cluster of keys and unlocked a metal cabinet. only it wasn't as dark as it should have been. Harry thought it strange that she didn't appear scared of him. but uncertainty fluttered in the back of his mind. Images cascaded into his mind. pleading with him to give up. he had been found out by the police. He lay there for a few moments. Ploughed them back into work. It didn't want him to talk. He pulled the tip of the knife from his palm and watched the blood run from the wound. The blood raced tangibly around his body from the shock of running up seven floors and his exhaustion caused flickers of light to play in his eyes. He ran his legs that were crooked with exhaustion. There was a dull green glow to the darkness that lingered between two lockers that blocked access to the basements of the abandoned shops. The feeling of someone watching over him was gone. and was instantly dazzled by the brilliant sun low in the sky ahead of him. but scared for him. possibly imagination.Alec moved hesitantly to the . He let the lift doors slide shut and again the darkness rushed in on him and claimed the room except for the green ghost light. but to wound them so much they wouldn't be able to follow. Racing forwards. some residue of light on his cornea. he was no use to the thing at his back. her presence increased his awareness of the knife in his hand.. but to be with Deirdra. He would do part of what he knew it wanted. The communal green below widened rapidly to catch him. The tarmac roof was soft underfoot from the suns heat and the different terrain broke his pace. Harry remembered her. cautioned him when his sense hadn't kept up with his actions and taken him home when he had been lost. he was sure his fingers were flexing. It was the illusive 'thing' at his back. Except the light was green and he had seen that before. stabbing it threateningly in the policeman's direction and then in hers. The puppeteer was still at the back of his mind. The real Deirdra. mental pictures of him flashing his knife at the two officers. The breeze was wild around him. Coyote do so many times. Then he stopped thinking. pulling him in different directions. He flicked the lights off and felt his way back towards the lifts. I'M COMING! PLEASE FORGIVE ME!" His tears were like ice on his face. The images were gone. "DEIRDRA. while the panorama of Camden spread out around him far below and dizzied him further. Despite the courage of their arrival on the roof they were both cautious in their approach. although the male officer called him names. he fingered the lift call button and waited in the dark. He thought it funny that he couldn't feel any pain. Speaking quietly and calmly.Chapter Twenty 150 Harry burst through the fire exit door and onto the roof. "I LOVE YOU DEIRD -. White-hot pain cleared the images from his mind. not just to get back to the door. He was startled to find he was holding the carving knife before him. to put the knife down. The path grew from obscurity into gritty concrete detail. It had driven him up here. seeming to reflect the doughy feeling he now realised in his trembling leg muscles. Deirdra's voice was gone. Pain. Kelly had been kind to him many times. wondering if he could move anything. Harry was a psycho. It didn't want him anymore. the knife held forth.

until the coronet of light vanished. he only had the emptiness he experienced whenever he needed his mother and the longing it created. either by shadow or eaten away by something else. He flicked the light from side to side. Alec dropped his torch. and lit up the jagged teeth of the large gaping hole. except his face was not Albert's. It spoke with Alec's mother's voice. were upon him. Their eyes. He passed the torch back across the same part of wall and once again the circle of light vanished. it was dead and rotten and the green light throbbed within it's skull. and neither she or Alec could afford to visit the other. He approached the maw and fingered the chalky dusty teeth of the broken concrete wall. or soft and borderless as the flesh became one with the liquid within the obelisk. a thick cloying surface that pulled on his shoes as he took his steps. as if it was somehow absorbed within. great cramped limbs. making them ragged and hideous to look upon. . Suspended in the gelatinous slime were shapes he couldn't recognise. or empty sockets. A green misshapen clumsy obelisk stood before him. Panic took hold of Alec with the thought of his torch failing him in a part of the building he had never thought to venture. but too many of them to belong to just one single person. mouth and nose. The obelisk seemed to keep some memory of the light his torch had cast upon it. a faint glowing shape barely distinguished from the dark. except she had emigrated to Canada eight years ago to marry. but had only lost the spot of light at the end of the beam. Then there were the faces he recognised. all his attention was drawn to the shape. he levelled the shaft of his light and the green ghost was given form. It swallowed him as he stepped within. but he felt instant relief as he jerked the torch and the spotlight returned to the wall. He snapped the torch on and waved the shaft of light around the room beyond. The nightmare in his vision overpowered his other senses. Some were clear while others appeared half-dissolved. and shapes that were clearly vital organs that were no longer internal to anyone. human-like. and they pelted his clothes and face in their erratic flight. The limbs twitched and slid slowly. one by one they appeared like stars in the night sky. He unlocked one of them and pulled a torch out then stepped through the opening. A man stepped into the half-light from Alec's floored torch. The darkness had the musty sour smell of damp. one over the other.Chapter Twenty 151 gap in the lockers. Despite the monster he knew was before him and the living obelisk he knew was behind him. Something moved in that glow. For a brief second his eyes offered no respite from the darkness. He didn't want to think about what was underfoot. an opaque fleshy membrane of translucent veins and capillaries stretched over a skeletal structure of thick crude bone which reached up from the floor to the ceiling like gnarled branches. dust and expired meat. and suddenly an arc of green light flashed through the air and deposited itself into the darkness between him and his exit. The shock of the alien sight struck him as if it was a physical blow. A man dressed as Albert Taylor the undertaker used to dress. Alec heard the buzz of flies disturbed by the strange lightning. With his senses settled he realised that he hadn't lost sight of the dust motes lit up by the torches shaft of light. There was an uncomfortable softness under foot. he didn't feel fear. The ghostly light at the heart of the shape intensified then dulled. the detail that it patted to the ground as if it had landed in something soft and thick was lost to him. Alec stepped slowly forward across broken masonry towards the black hole that absorbed the spotlight from his weak torch. Alec marvelled at how he had seen this weak light from the main part of the basement: a ghostly green shape among the black ocean that he now swam in. Suddenly in a moment of sickening clarity of vision some of the shapes had faces. thick shadows danced around the beam of light like black amorphous moths as it travelled the walls and debris. He could see only his mother. surrounded by a thick viscous fluid. Then he saw it. and Alec didn't run. bleeding out through its eyes.

but now that it felt far from homely all he could see was its grey." "Aha! I have been waiting for this. Despite his unhappiness he found his own cheeks aching with a broad grin too. Weeks ago. you get to know some of the nurses and porters a bit. He was distracted from his despair by the sharp creak of the handbrake as Kelly finished parking and rattled the key out of the ignition." "At least with me at your side my being in the service gets you seen quicker." "I have seen it in the faces of other residents in the building." Craig shook his head. living in a grotty building. That was embarrassing." "I can't believe I got seen by the same nurse who strapped up my dislocated shoulder." "Yeah. He took his seat belt off but didn't make any effort to leave the car. stark ugliness." "I meant after three. Still smirking. In my defence" "Oh this should be good. "Go on then. What was he doing here? Separated from his family. If it wasn't for you being with me in A&E I would have been waiting hours." "I realise that now. At weekends we get called to A&E quite often. The fact that the building was home had always softened his perception of the place. "Thanks for taking me. struggling to make ends meet. You know her don't you? Chloe wasn't it?" "Zoe." He cut in. Say it. "She seem different to you though?" "Colder? Distrusting?" So Kelly had noticed it too." "You are going to have to stop picking on doors. "Strained tendon! I never realised how fragile I was. Lonely. my neighbour Vi wanted me to pop in for a cuppa from time to time. He looked in her direction out of the corner of his eye and found she was doing the same and was attempting to stifle a grin. "When you me and Balin lined up to kick Harry's door in I thought you said to Balin that we would all kick the door on a count of three. Ever since they had left A&E he had caught sight of that little smile of hers. he broke eye contact and she did the same. He glanced over at her and she looked at him. but I saw her in the lobby when we brought Cat back from hospital and she . He didn't feel any urge to go inside and Kelly seemed to share his lack of motivation as she joined him in listening to the tick of the engine cooling down." Kelly cut in." Kelly bit her lip and nodded. "It's because of all the stuff that's happened here isn't it?" "She has seen us involved with it twice now.Chapter Twenty 152 Chapter Twenty Nine Craig stared up at the tower block through the windscreen of Kelly's small car as she pulled the vehicle into its space in the car park.

he didn't care though because she wanted him and that felt good. "I guess it's hard for people to trust anyone with all that is happening on their doorsteps. "Are you sure you don't want to go to your parents?" Whatever trouble the mention of Harry had caused her it was gone from her face. hiding her face from him. but this place was my home and I don't want to be driven out of it by whatever is going on. To figure out how to stop it.Chapter Twenty had that same look in her eyes." Craig realised his knee-jerk reaction to her offer and softened his voice. He couldn't help but feel responsible for whatever might happen when he slept. With every nightmare he had someone would suffer a horrific fate. but they hadn't spoken about the events on the roof. so you could always stay over at mine until things have blown over. but wanted some company herself with everything that was happening. Craig had accepted Kelly's offer of a shower. "I don't mind driving you. I know we seem to be experiencing a lot of bad things. It can't just be us that are experiencing the suspicious looks -. In the confines of Kelly's little car the gesture could easily be blundered." When he considered how his nightmares seemed to predict each terrible happening at the building her defence sounded hollow. She might think it was a cheap pass.or the strange experiences." "I know. he towelled down." Craig suspected that she wasn't just being kind. He didn't want to scare Kelly by making too much effort. "I'm glad you invited me over tonight. folded her arms on the steering wheel and rested her chin on them and joined Craig in staring up at the tower. thanks. Besides taking me to Bath would involve a four-hour round trip for you and that's not fair. Craig wanted to sweep his arm around her and pull her close and tell her it was okay and that it wasn't her fault. You can come and go as you please. but his dreams somehow did connect him to what was happening. We aren't causing any of it." 153 Kelly leaned forward in her seat. this was not the woman who had treated his offer of a coffee as an indecent proposal a few days ago." "Yeah? Okay yeah. "We are just trying to understand what's happening. Things had changed since then. He had got past his fear that his dreams were repressed memories of things he had actually done or intentions he didn't want to admit to." She was clear that this was one friend doing another friend a favour but he was still surprised." "I don't think anyone would blame you. practicing his strides with the crutch he had been given at the hospital so he could get around without hobbling. but it's not like we are looking very hard to find them." Kelly turned sharply to her side window. Forensics will be all over Harry's place next door. In ." Craig leaned against the cool glass of the passenger window as he contemplated returning. Kelly let out a deep sigh. just use the place as a base so you don't have to get confronted with whatever they will be doing on your doorstep. They had shared their disbelief at what had happened. and yeah that would be really great. "I guess we have to go in. shrugged and gestured in the air with open hands. "No. They had been through so much together in such a short period of time and it connected them so much more than the coffee on the canal could have done." "I was thinking. Let's see what tomorrow's like but I imagine the forensic boys will be in Harry's flat for days. "We will see how it goes then. thought against aftershave but decided to spray enough deodorant to give him an attractive scent instead. it feels like running away. After collecting some things from his flat he had walked up with Kelly to her place." "No. those explanations didn't make any sense. I doubt I would be so welcome now." Kelly slumped back in her seat. yet he doubted it had left her mind.

He had made himself comfortable tucked into one corner of the larger sofa with his legs crossed beneath him." "Yet despite the hundreds of channels I have we still can't find something to watch. I only have terrestrial." He leaned forward and took the call. . and despite his enjoyment of chilling out with Kelly he hadn't been able to shake the thought of it from his mind." Kelly flicked the channel to a programme with four women sitting around a restaurant table bitching about men. They had laughed their way through a couple of episodes of The Simpsons and Friends that they had stumbled across on TV while they devoured a tube of Pringles together. Her hair had volume from being blow dried and hung in kinked plump swathes against her chest and shoulders. "What about this?" "Sex and the City? Vetoed. "I wish I could get satellite." Craig groaned. Some time later Kelly had gotten herself ready and joined him. Part way through the evening the wine had mingled with his painkillers to create a warm numbness through his whole body. He was glad she hadn't worn a dress because the memory of her bare legs was a tease in itself. It had been the first point of the evening Craig had thought about the dangers beyond the front door. "It's my brother. he was glad because that would have meant she was trying to look attractive for him and his nerves at being around a woman he didn't know that well would have gotten to him. dark blue Ben Sherman denims that hugged his rear and his front nicely. "The A-Team?" Craig struggled to get his phone out of his jeans pockets. she gave him a sheepish smile and held her towel tight around her. he had been mistaken in thinking that the highlight of the night had been glimpsing her bare legs because they looked just as shapely in the snug dark denims she wore. had been leisurely. Vetoed. "We might have to do a trade-off soon or we won't settle on anything. it drew attention to her slim figure and the plain-half of the top clung to the fullness of her breasts. And don't mock 'The Team'. Craig had spared her a lingering look but he had caught sight of her fantastic slender legs. She wasn't wearing make-up. Kelly showered straight after him and she emerged from the steamy bathroom while he was sorting through his bag in the hall. She wore a brown tee-shirt. drinking the white wine Kelly had opened for them while he waited for her company. They had rung a few local Chinese restaurants before they had found one willing to brave their building and its new-found notoriety and they had tipped the edgy looking delivery boy a fiver for his trouble. Sorry. Besides she didn't need make-up." Craig shook his head and Kelly flicked the channel over to three men standing around a car and bickering. and a pale blue fashion tee-shirt that was intentionally faded and distressed on the shoulders. his glance had only been brief but in his mind the journey his eyes had taken along the contours of her smooth glistening legs. to the hem of that towel at mini-skirt length. "Topgear!" "Almost worth it for Richard Hammond." They both jumped as The A-Team ring tone of his phone rang out. but no. the bottom-half detailed in amber bronze and gold beads and stitched through with some kind of elastic that pulled the material close to her abdomen.Chapter Twenty 154 the bathroom he changed into fresh clothes. With their meal finished they flicked the TV through its many channels trying to find something to watch. clearly regretting not changing into her clothes in the bathroom as he had. It was in this moment Craig had realised that they could have opened the guy to real risk and five pounds didn't cover that.

" Craig admitted sombrely. I know that. bruv?" "I'm okay. "I thought that was just you being cool. And even though I'm older I have asked you for help in the past." "When have you ever wanted my help for anything?" Craig realised his voice had climbed with his disbelief and he added a laugh to soften it. his irritation edging his tone. "Yeah. She is worried about you. yeah I called her earlier. "Yes." Craig tipped his head back and rolled his eyes into his eyelids. 155 "Alright." "Well it was. "Not you worrying about me too." He nodded his head back onto his chest and slumped back into his seat." "I'm three years older than you. Maybe if you called her a little more often to put her mind at rest" Darren must have sensed Craig switch off. I remember as a kid you would bust your knee open and you wouldn't let yourself cry or let mum or dad clean you up. "You did?" There was surprise in his tone. "Yeah. "Yes. Darren picked up on his mood straight away. cut her some slack. I got an RSS news feed for London scrolling across my PC the whole time I am at work. of course. you?" Craig replied. "Jeez. but it was also because I missed you guys and I was ." Craig grunted. "It's natural for families to worry about each other. because his brother's tone changed from nagging to conspiratorial. "When I first moved out I had you stay with me for ages. He hated it when his brother was right." There was a pause. You had to do it yourself. because I am the cool older brother. isn't it?" He couldn't argue with that." He admitted quietly. you have a real stick up your arse about being helped." "You were the same. I'm good. "How are you. "Don't worry I haven't been telling mum about it all. you probably didn't remember my skinning-my-knee age back then. She would lasso you with her apron strings and drag you back home.Chapter Twenty Darren cheered down the phone as Craig answered it. Darren might think it was funny but he didn't." Craig snapped bluntly. "Just be thankful she can't get your local news on the internet." "You been looking at it?" "Yeah." "You get mum's messages?" Craig slouched and sighed. remember?" "Yeah.

But seriously I'm okay down here. Call or text. Craig hadn't admitted it but it had taken him a while to adjust to Darren not being at home." "Someone?" "Yes. I could take some leave and come down and stay with you for a bit. "Sorry I didn't realise. I'm staying with someone tonight." "You're the dick. Yet it was too dangerous. I thought your building was pretty safe. Craig felt bad. It's been a while since we had a night out together." Darren couldn't come down. It would be a good laugh. not someone you have to impress or put on a brave face with. Knightrider. He couldn't leave Kelly on her own either. Anyway there isn't much you guys can do about a spike in the crime rate. but I don't want you down here with all that's happening because then I would be worrying about you too. It was hard enough dealing with the strangeness of events as it was without having to convince him of what was happening. and Streethawk blaring from the stereo while they boozed and got ready to hit the town." Craig's face got hot and his eyes moist." "Just check in with mum a couple of times a week will you. I missed you geeking off while I was trying to get ready for work." "A female someone?" "Yes." "Yeah. Treat it as a practice run for my stag night. and you can show your country-brother the city night-life. Who?" Darren was in take the piss mode. or trying to watch TV and stuff." "Hello. He was surprised to find that for the first time he actually missed home." "Spike in the crime rate?" Darren repeated incredulously. "Seems a little more than that bro.Chapter Twenty 156 homesick. We could geek off together. Dick. The realisation was nearly enough to floor him. Craig's got someone else." "That Vicki girl?" "No. . I can keep you company. Just while all this is happening in your building. "What about your girlfriend?" "Were engaged and gonna be married in a couple of years time so I'm sure she will be grateful for a bit of space from me." "I'm your older brother. their dance versions of eighties boys programmes like the A-team. The news are treating it like a bit of a novelty. I was thinking. sure. "Shut up. "It has been ages and that would be great." Darren sounded serious. I'm ok anyway. It's weird that it's all happening at your place." Craig could imagine it now." "I know. There was no excuse he could think of except for a version of the truth. I don't have any expectations you have to meet to qualify as my brother. I keep my wits about me.

" 157 Craig said goodbye. About what happened. It was the last thing I expected. A bit frosty to start with. Speak soon Mr. About Harry. "Put her on. After what happened I was worried about you. If she felt uncomfortable with him being so close to her then he was sure she would move. It all seems so out of character. Balin did. okay." Craig looked gravely at the ceiling thinking about Kelly's chase to the roof way above their heads. I dunno. I was prepared for that. "Pretty shitty. "I mean after today I'm surprised. hung up on him and apologised to Kelly for the interruption. but I couldn't and yet I can see him in my head sprawled in a tangled mess at the bottom. "It's a deal." Craig said bluntly." "You like her?" "Fuck off. "But you haven't said how you feel. his feet were about an inch from hers. I can't believe any of it." Craig swung his legs back up on the sofa and got comfy again. I think. Like I had missed something. "It's nice to see you laugh. When he disappeared over the edge it was all so quick. He saw that she was still flicking through the channels. "Imagination filling in the blanks. stick Sex and the City back on and then after that we can watch Topgear on catch-up TV. I'm fucking off. or something." He saw Kelly's mouth drop and he jumped in to put his comment back in the context he had meant it to be in. "You told me what happened up there. she had told him to make himself comfortable and he was." "Yeah." "Thanks." He actually didn't care what they watched. Great. They both laughed at the character of Samantha brazenly returning a faulty neck-massager she had been using to massage something else. Missed him getting past us. "Okay. Sod it. it was just nice being with Kelly. He saw that as Kelly was now sitting with her legs pulled up onto the cushions too. That Harry was capable of doing anything like what he must have been doing. and I will show you what real cars look like. Does that mean you think I am normally a miserable cow?" "No." Craig could see the slush of Harry's brain and blood spread out from his head in a splatter. I didn't look over the edge." Kelly swilled the wine around her glass." "Aw." Kelly cast her eyes down to the large glass of wine she cradled in her lap." "Fuck off. She didn't." ." "She there?" "Yes. Not at all. I thought he might lash out at me or Balin when we cornered him. and pleased to see you laughing.Chapter Twenty "Fuck off.

" "Alec was in the crowd that gathered around outside." Kelly cautioned with little conviction. sleeping with only a foot separating his head from the blood and carnage of Harry's charnel house flat. Nothing came past me when you left to chase Harry. wouldn't really get that relationship with the police. I didn't even know you could get onto the roof to be honest. I don't understand and I'm not sure I want to. but when you went down to get Balin to do the arrest. "There is another thing that bugs me." Craig became aware of their vulnerability again. at Harry's flat and said 'It is in there with Harry'. a bit hail and brimstone but not a stalker or someone you would think would try and knife someone. The one time when someone is seemingly and deliberately heading up there to throw himself off the building." He shivered visibly but didn't care because Kelly was rubbing her arms too. You get to know the building that way. "She looked scared. I mean always. there's barely even a lip between the roof and a big fall. "The same goes for Malik. I certainly don't anymore. Sitting in the pool of light that the standard lamp cast down on them. the rest of the room seemed like some featureless void that held only shadows. I think. say 'hi' to the teens. chat with old dears who spend most of their days here. except today. but he was a nice old guy. It is always kept locked. and being up in the sky and not in the streets. He had the keys on him. "Cat might not be so coherent after her coma. She pointed at me. chat with the caretaker. I mean he was a bible-basher and liked a few brandies more than he should." "It was probably an oversight. who knows." Craig shivered at the thought of the grim events that had been taking place next to his home.Chapter Twenty 158 "I lived next door to him for about two years. I asked if he had been working up there. Alec may have been doing some work up there. He didn't smell too good and was a bit of an odd character but I would never have said he was anything but harmless. and that door to the roof is always locked. I thought it was a shame that our community having the intercom controlled door between us and the world." "What did she want?" "To freak me out. The station has been trying to get more police presence on the streets. Harry wouldn't have known he was . the local bobby walking the pavements getting to know people. So when I got off work I would sometimes walk around this place in uniform. Waiting for something they were seemingly defenceless against to take one or both of them. I wonder if there is still something in there." "You think Alec unlocked it for Harry to get up there and top himself?" "I don't know what I think. waiting for something that could rip through the home that was usually a sanctuary against danger. "Yeah. There are no railings up there." "You didn't seem to want to talk about it earlier so I didn't mention this to you. and you left me watching over Harry's door Cat appeared at the fire escape at the end of the corridor." "Or give you a black eye" Kelly fingered the blemishes on her face. we stumbled across Harry and it was a fluke. sitting in the dark." Craig's skin tightened on his arms and he felt their hairs bristle as he recalled what she had told him. "But then. if someone could have gotten the key. He imagined what the Blitz was like.

I had better go to it." "Yeah. It shook me up like I said to you earlier on the phone. the door to the roof was left unlocked." "I know. "I'm okay." Rachel replied to Craig's arched eyebrow. but I have to try. You might want to stop throwing yourself at things!" "You're a couple of hours too late. Jason didn't want Rachel to come back to the tower. I don't want to leave Jason too long." "Oh that is a shame." "That's it." Kelly agreed and saw Rachel out and then returned to Craig's side. because if Cat doesn't help. I better get this over and done with and climb the rest of the way up there. Kelly choked a mouthful of wine down in a spluttering cough and got to her feet laughing once again." she swallowed a breath. "Well. Not fair to leave him worrying about me. Rachel had rung while they had been waiting for their Chinese to arrive. keeping ahead of us in some game where we don't even understand the rules. When he did Rachel looked grave and sombre. even if something happened to her." Rachel eyed Craig and his new injury. I just feel like were on a playing board and someone is moving the pieces around. He chose to run up instead of down." Neither women answered him and he realised that they hadn't thought of that. It's late. Rachel had said that if she didn't get an answer she was coming over. but Rachel declined and slugged back the contents of a miniature bottle of spirits instead. all the jokes have been had. "It would seem that I am right to push Cat for answers. "Despite fourteen floors to Cat's flat. I don't want to leave Jason too long so I won't call in on the way back down. "The lift didn't appeal. Twenty minutes later a flushed and sweaty looking Rachel disturbed the cosiness that had been just Kelly and him.Chapter Twenty 159 going to have to do what he did today." Kelly prompted Craig to tell Rachel about his experience with Cat outside Harry's flat. that's probably Rachel now! Freaky timing. "Oh my God. Kelly got a glass from the kitchen and offered Rachel some wine." Kelly pressed the door release at hearing Rachel crackle hesitantly onto the intercom. Going down is easier anyway. You're starting to sound like Rachel now!" Kelly laughed with him but their noise was silenced as the intercom buzzer sounded from the wall and startled them both. she had called Cat several times to press for information but she was not picking up. good luck. The only way I can see us getting answers at the moment is for something to happen to us. but at least he was settled at hers and safe. and for the first time I know of. or doesn't have any information then we are just back to waiting for something else to happen. quite. "I see you have traded in your sling for a crutch. "Yes. "Are you okay?" . dear?" Kelly nodded. "Just think of me as a self-treating St Bernard. I will ring you when I'm safe at home and fill you in or arrange to meet up with you tomorrow or something. I better go. You need a dose of sanity. but I'm okay. She was convinced that Cat had some link or may have seen something that could offer an insight into what might be happening. She has a spy hole in her door like everyone else here so she might not even answer to you. "And how are you." Rcahel's face became serious." Kelly's mouth briefly drew down at the corners.

"Because they are real." Kelly slipped from the arm of the sofa onto the seat. isn't it." Craig looked up into Kelly's face as he considered his words. it's nothing personal. "Yeah. "I have had some dreams of quite specific events. The thing with Harry. We will work something out." He widened his eyes as if he could prop them open with everything he could see. but he could feel the tiredness like some invisible creature squatting on his chest." Kelly read Craig's discomfort and prompted him. "There are really intense emotions. She perched on the arm of the chair and looked down on him. but I dream a lot. "No. It's all so raw and real. so graphic." "Not sleeping?" Kelly asked as she dragged a quilt from behind the sofa. What happened at the hospital. "You want to sleep?" Kelly whispered. someone feeling comfortable enough with you to fall asleep beside you. Then later." Craig liked the idea of someone watching him sleep. maybe I should call it a night. "We are closer to anyone else on this." "You were asleep. "What?" Silence crept in around them in the gloom before Craig could say what he needed. That was one of the things he had liked about being in a relationship when he had been with Lisa back at uni. None of it makes any sense. Sleep has a way of sneaking up on me lately. unsure if he wanted to tell her what he had been experiencing. we are on top of it. "I have had dreams I thought were real before. There's no explanation to be found in any of it. He felt the leg of his jeans being tugged at the hem. Not like any nightmares I have had before." He watched Kelly's face as he considered telling her more." He thought of Vicki and his frustrations poured out. "Memories?" He cringed at having to spell it out to her. Sad. The things I dream about -. "I sleep. Her concentration hadn't faltered. pain and terror." Craig sighed and rested his head on the back of the sofa and closed his eyes. clearly unsure at how to respond to his outburst. He would prefer watching Kelly sleep though. "It's not surprising really after all that's been happening. They are so vivid. 160 "You gave a grim summation of our situation a second ago. I've been tired for days." "Bad dreams?" "The worst. "You don't understand. hours ." "I was?" "I thought you were thinking then your breathing changed." Craig emptied his glass into his mouth and was relieved at having told someone. I didn't quite realise it was like that until then. "I'm sorry. "What has been happening in this building.They feel intense and real" He paused. Hell. When are we going to get some answers?" Kelly glanced down into her glass.Chapter Twenty "Me?" Craig felt his face flush. maybe weeks.

"Yeah." "I know.Chapter Twenty 161 or days later. His age? Or was she just as disappointed by the end of their evening together as he was? ." Kelly looked a little scared." he harrumphed. best not to. What I can believe though is that you can't look to yourself for any blame for what's happening here. you're right I know. You aren't going to be able to avoid it. I dreamt that old guy that drowned in his bath. "Do you dream?" He asked quickly. desperate to avoid falling asleep again." he murmured." Craig cuddled the quilt sausage. as if talking about his dreams was an incantation that summoned him into that world. "I have dreamt other things too." "There are lots of things to be frightened of. "Yes. You don't need monsters for a nightmare. you already have. "I have been down that road too." "Yeah. I just don't want to dream anymore." "Craig. "You are going to fall asleep." "Craig. Of him? "Coincidence?" She suggested. So I don't dream anymore." Kelly took his hand. Or I would dream that I end up alone." He was woken up by the rolled up quilt slamming into him. my brain just isn't wired that way. Even if she doesn't I will come and check on you in a bit and see if you are okay. if Rachel calls me with any news I will come and wake you. Not since I started taking sleeping tablets anyhow." Her tone was serious. "Yeah. and although her touch felt good he had to pull his hand away and move to the edge of the sofa to break the connection between them as her kindness might cause him to break down." "It's not me that I'm worried about. I'm going to get myself ready for bed and read in my room. Okay then." He could feel the tiredness draw on his words. "Ungh! Uninterrupted sleep! I could do with that. Sad. I dreamt the woman gutting her husband at breakfast. "I don't know that you should take any of my sleeping tablets. I dreamt something about Vicki that I can't or don't want to remember and now I can't get hold of her. Things that haven't been discovered maybe. After I left Ian I had bad dreams all the times. I hear about something that has happened or I find myself coming across something and I find that what I dreamt has happened for real. "Hey! I could keep hitting you with this to keep you awake. That could do the trick. I don't know what to say. Kelly looked caught by something but he didn't know what. Kelly swept a swathe of hair from her face and looked away for a moment." She swatted him with it again. people I don't know about. Not quite like your nightmares but as you can imagine it created a lot of doubt." She shrugged. losing his battle against the darkness behind his eyes. and no one at her office has seen her even though she had a hot story from here. But I can't get away from the fact that if I sleep something might happen to someone." He thanked her for letting him stay and began arranging a bed on the sofa. I used to." "You could." "No. fear and anxiety when I didn't need it. I would dream that I went back to him. "When I sleep I worry that someone will die. so I believe you. "Twenty four and I'm going to bed at ten. Horrible things that I haven't heard about yet. or I hadn't left and things were better. I don't understand any of what's happening." It was clear Kelly didn't know what to say. but I have relied on you to help me believe.

"Seriously. Would she even like what she saw? "You are going to have to sleep properly sometime. He checked his phone in the hope that he had missed a text from Vicki." She had recovered from whatever it was. The electricity was back in his stomach." If she picked up on his flirtatious insinuation she ignored it. the scatter cushions. They didn't talk much more after this except for another goodnight. ." Kelly looked everywhere but at him and took her time to answer. sure I can do that. but at least he had got her heart racing a bit. but he noticed the surfaces were neat and uncluttered while the furnishings. you said something back there and it got me thinking. but you beat me to it. He hesitated for what felt like forever in the darkness. You said you could check on me." She turned back into her room and the door drifted open fully." Her face flushed. got up and went to Kelly's door. It was lit by two small table lamps. They said goodnight to each other. He slipped out of his top and jeans and pulled on a pair of jersey pyjama bottoms and climbed in under the duvet. "I had left my book in the lounge and was coming to get it. each on a bedside table. well this is going to sound very much like a line from Nightmare on Elm Street but I was thinking if you were going to read for a bit you could sit in the lounge and watch over me too. If you see me looking a bit restless you could wake me up. but snuggled under his quilt he took comfort in having Kelly in the same room watching over him as he waited for the nightmares to begin." "I guess I can be grateful you didn't grab one of my breasts like you nearly did when we first met. were plush and cosy looking. willing himself to knock. He was startled when the door opened and he could see his shock mirrored in Kelly's face. 162 If Vicki had made a comment like that he would have made a crude comeback. but he held back with Kelly as he wasn't sure how she would take it. "What are you doing!" Kelly gasped. She wasn't going to bite. He tossed the cover aside. "Not what it looked like!" "Listening at my door you mean?" "I was going to knock. He knew he wouldn't be able to stay awake long and it was the end of the evening but he didn't want to be on his own. He hadn't. the velvet headboard. yet somehow that buzz of anxiety that came with daring himself to say something was just as exciting as flirting itself.Chapter Twenty "No stamina obviously." All Craig could do was laugh and burn up. Craig didn't get much of a look at the room before Kelly returned to the door with her quilt bundled into her arms. the fur rug. probably recovering her wits from his scaring her. but yeah. "Where were you heading when you caught me lurking anyway. and seemingly doing everything not to look at his bare chest.

He stood there. Neil smirked to himself. curvy. pitching her forward. She held her position and listened intently. On the fourteenth floor at the end of the corridor seven doors down from Cat's flat. A dull ting of metal on concrete grounded her vertigo. Scraaaatch. and instantly homed in on the direction of the sound.Chapter Thirty 163 Chapter Thirty Rachel entered the staircase and glanced upwards at the remaining four flights of stairs that zigzagged from landing to landing to the fourteenth floor. He stirred a sugar into each mug. "There's something I want to say to you. He tried to think of something else to make it subside. you got a bit horny out there didn't you!" Neil felt her rub at his crotch before he could sit down. and then cursed -. She glanced around her warily then continued her ascent. He took the two mugs through to the lounge where Jane lounged on the sofa. Karen was all that too. Within the flat Neil stood in his kitchen and sloshed hot water onto the coffee granules in the two mugs on the worktop. there was an inferno when they got together. Jane was cool. He closed his eyes and thought of Karen. The shadowy angles of the stairs offered no sign of movement.Karen liked sugar. Nothing. As he tucked a flank of his shoulder length hair behind his ear he found his hands were shaking with apprehension. paralysed with the sensation as she rubbed within his jeans. She was good looking. as if the great throat of the building had swallowed. but didn't mention Karen. There was a spark. The sound of metal dragging lightly across stone rang out again. casting Neil Harris' door into darkness. a fluorescent tube fluttered winked then blinked out. but the sheer drop that yawned below her seemed to stretch and the landing retract. The door knocker rattled and he sighed with relief at the interruption. If Jane was like a comforting open fire." She instructed herself. Jane didn't. then Karen was napalm. "God. her senses chasing the memory of the sound while she looked about her for a visual clue to its cause. Rachel swallowed the discomfort that had gripped her chest from peering over the banister. but there was more. lit gently by a single standard lamp and the flicker of the TV. He quickly tipped it away and poured another cup. funny. The rich smell of the coffee gave no comfort. He heard her voice call to him. he reasoned. All he could think of was Jane in the other room and what he could say to her. "Don't look down. It sapped the life from his erection and his groin crawled with cold receding blood. Anytime he thought of her (which was a lot) his groin burned. He zipped his fly back up. "Typical. He lingered on that last thought and his jeans tightened on his hardening groin. and her journey to the top would take her to it. It felt good. "Thanks. and was then silenced. She glanced over the glossy black banister looking for encouragement from the floors she had already conquered. Fuck that. Neil pulled away gently and put his mug down. but whatever had made the sound was above her and out of sight. He looked into her round confused face and tried to give a convincing smile but it was strained and weak. Rachel's head snapped upwards." He tried harder to smile but thought he might look insane. two years and you can't remember what I take in my drink!" Neil winced at her statement and poured another mug. pretty-smart and gave great head. his firmness became an uncomfortable brick in his jeans. . She stealthily slid his fly open and her hand started working him. Cat's floor. love" She took a brief sip and laughed. but it was the kind of aching excitement that needed relief to quench it. "Are you growing that coffee?" He quickly explained his mistake. She unfurled and took the proffered mug from him.

By the time Neil had reached the hall he had reasoned that it wouldn't be anything to do with the craziness of the building. Perhaps he was going to do what she hoped he would do. She would show her! She laughed quietly and girlishly to herself as she called up Karen's name and sent the text to her. They hadn't even had a row the whole time they had been dating. She swatted at them with her magazine. Karen didn't want Jane to know about her. as if the door was being opened with the intention of her not noticing it. they had spent most of the week at hers because of everything that had been happening at The Heights. she swatted it away and watched it land on the coffee table where another one crawled lazily.Chapter Thirty "Who would call at this time of night?" Jane asked. She could call Kelly. Her nerve faltered and she stopped her ascent a few flights short of Cat's floor. Neil?" There was no answer. Something hard swiped across his throat and he stumbled back with an explosion of white-hot pain in his throat. Whoever would be at the door Neil was glad of the break. "Stop mucking around and get yourself back in here. didn't want a burn. Bit milky but it was nice. it might have been one of his mates calling round and Neil was trying to get rid of him. whatever that was going to be. No. What would she say? That she could here a sound? . He stared through the spy hole. He was nervous." She laughed. She reached for her mobile and quickly thumbed a text into the screen: "I FINK HES GONNA POP DA Q!" Would he? She had talked about it with her best friend the day before. It couldn't be anything bad. She dismissed her anxiety with a stiff-upper-lip gusto. but couldn't see anything. but he had lost his erection the moment he had heard the door go. She saw the handle of the door turn slowly downward. A thought danced in the back of her mind at why Neil had been so strange this evening. No. her friend had been doubtful of his intentions of commitment towards her. What if it was Karen? She had been pushing for him to end things with Jane so that they could be together. She wouldn't let him bring her here again until everything had settled down. it gave him more time to find the words that would end their relationship. "It will be nothing. A fat black fly bumped into her face. His heart pounded in his chest like the heavy bass of a nightclub. He knew why. She turned back to the television and let Neil do his thing. her thoughts dashed to her mobile phone in her bag. It was already drinkable. He pulled his open hands up to it and watched the pulsing line break upon his fingers in a splashing spray of vivid red. He fought to draw a breath and a fluid red line lashed out from below his line of sight. 164 Her face didn't show frustration but concern. She stood there. He laughed inside but then felt kind of sad that he was going to lose Jane. but it came uneasily. alone in the isolated enclosed stairwell. The door swung slowly open and death. He opened the door and a part of the dark broke away and lunged into the hall. The television held her attention until his absence began to eat at her. too quick for his eyes to register any detail. scrabbling along the floor panicking and dying. Strangely it seemed to be dark in the corridor. He told her not to worry. in a cloud of bloated flies. He straightened himself out in his jeans and headed out of the room. took three lightning swift strides to her side. after all they had practically been living together at each others flats the last year or so. Neil should know not to creep around like that what with everything that had been happening. "You coming back.just as well he made it extra milky. The sound of a tip of metal being scored across concrete dragged itself into the perimeter of Rachel's senses." He didn't know if he was reassuring her or himself. She didn't know why he had been so insistent at being at his flat tonight. She was anxious for Neil to return and ask the question that she wanted and hoped to hear. Jane watched the shifting images on the TV. Jane blew on her coffee and took a sip. she wouldn't come and force the issue. he had become comfortable with her. Sharp but fleeting. That kind of thing happened to other people. Whatever he said he would probably end up wearing the coffee he had just made -. There was one crawling across the TV too. He lost his balance and fell backward onto the carpet. the noise caught her attention before slithering quickly and illusively away. no doubt about it. "Neil? Neil?" She waved away another fly.

For seconds that seemed like uncomfortable minutes she waited for her eyes to find whatever made the noise while the gloom pressed forebodingly against her. Her eyes. Her palm became slick and her grip on the handle faltered. Rachel held her ground as step by step a slow stubbed footfall sounded. Rachel froze. light from the sanctuary of the bright corridor spilled over her. her face and eyes hard and expressionless. One measured foot after another she climbed the final approach to Cat's landing. All she had to do was walk forward. She slinked across the landing below until she was out of sight. as if she instinctively knew that was the direction the woman warned her against. her hair tired and fragile looking. She stilled her quavering breaths. The landing was empty. Her hand was very near whatever was making that noise. With a sigh of relief Rachel clutched the handle and pulled the heavy door open. Three quick measured steps and she would be in the apparent safety of the bright corridor. Her eyes were evasive but aware as she walked around Rachel. A soft shuffling on the stairs above her. From experience and intuition Rachel knew that if she went after her she would find the landing empty. An unsettling awareness of not being alone crowded in on her and slowed her steps. grey and haunted. Rachel's wrist jerked. Rachel caught her breath and tried her best to restrain the pull of an inane grin of relief. Sharp metal scratched across gritty concrete at a volume that raked at her ears and her nerves with its proximity. each step bringing the source of the sound closer to her. She glanced back to the woman and found that she was gone. Her heart was quivering from the apparitions unnerving warning. A meek woman around Rachel's age stepped into view. The light on the wall above the door was dead. The sound of concrete being scraped snatched her attention back to her original heading. impossibly further down the stairs withdrawing backwards. sliding along the wall with a sickening slithering noise as her cardigan dragged along the smooth white concrete. as if time had leapt backward like a needle on a scratched record. On the landing ahead of her a shadow moved. Rachel managed to turn her self-amused grin into a pleasantry toward the grey woman as she shuffled past her in the direction Rachel had just come from. stared up into Rachel's face. Rachel swallowed the shock and allowed her eyes to stray from her face toward Cat's landing. it had come from floor level from behind the door she held open. and the square of light from the window set into the fire escape door only served to deepen the shadows around it. She bolstered herself to discover the source of the haunting noise. near people's homes and the help the safety they represented. Scraaaaatch. . The pace of the staggered noise changed as the drawn out scuffing steps moved from the stairs and onto the landing ahead of her. She was still shaking her head in warning. shambling onto the staircase with Rachel in pink fluffy slippers. Her body huddled over with her arms folded under her chest in a cowering walk. The sense was quickly followed by a new sound in the shadows. and her mind teetered on fearful imagination of what could be waiting for her. The woman held Rachel in place and shook her head slowly from side to side. Rachel looked down and caught sight of the woman. The sound was on the landing with her. snatched into a strong grip by the woman who was now impossibly in front of her again. but the humour trembled on a foundation of weak resolve as she hauled herself up the banister. The woman's face was ashen and drawn.Chapter Thirty 165 She scoffed dismissively at herself.

What was she doing? The spirit world wasn't the benign plane that she understood. The old man's cold rough fingers withdrew leaving a single small stone in her hand. The stone was engraved with the 'Jera' rune.Chapter Thirty 166 There had been nothing behind the door only a moment before. She froze within the quiet that followed. She eyed the familiar figure warily. Shaken. If there was something there now then it had to be spiritual. seemingly daring her to look. The figures face was hidden but the narrow tongue of white beard that hung out from the dark hood told her it was the same phantom that had appeared to her at Craig's flat the night Amy had been taken. The engraving changed before her eyes. as if the rune itself was evil and reacted against Rachel's innocence and purity. She let the hot rune fall and it passed seamlessly into the ground like a ghost. Despite her fears she had to see what was tormenting her. She was doing what the stupid heroine would do! Rachel's heart leapt into her throat and she fumbled for the door. It had been just to her right. She reached out and found a small object deposited into her palm. She had already received a warning. She could feel a presence by her side. the endurance of chaos and the confrontation with the monster. The figure let the sickle rest on the floor and held its hand up to Rachel. Whatever lurked in this building was beyond anything she had ever experienced. The monster. offering her something. She only had to turn her head to the right and whatever made that noise would be at her feet. a 'something' at the perimeter of that other sense beyond sight and sound. Not in this building anyway. seemingly dressed in the shadow that he sat within. That she would face the monster. Scraaaaatch. The noise punctured the quiet then left her dangling in silence again. Yet. she turned sharply to the sage for an answer. Every supernatural horror film that had ever frightened her strobed through her mind. her confidence returning as she fell back on her old belief that the spirit world was benign. . Dread paralyzed her. came the noise. She recognised the symbol as 'Thurisaz' and its significance branded itself upon her. The door drifted closed on her escape route and the gloom crept back out of the shadows. Scraaaaatch. She didn't have any defence against whatever was at work here. She let go of the handle. Whatever it was hadn't done anything to her. Her hand burned in a wild flash-fire of pain. Maybe it liked to taunt it's victims before She waited for the noise as someone might wait for the next heart stopping drop on a rollercoaster. It didn't come. She lurched in fright as the sound leapt out at her from the tip of a golden sickle being scored along the ground in a wide arc by a figure sitting hunched on crossed legs in a dark hooded robe. "But why? Why are children -. but he had followed the rune and she was alone once again but for the dread prophecy of 'Thurisaz'. She hesitantly lowered her gaze towards the ground. She could see that the rune that represented the harvest was symbolic of what was happening. The woman on the stairs had unnerved her and her trust in the safety of the spiritual world had been shaken by events in the building.people being taken?" The figure didn't answer. The rune symbolised destiny through suffering. the two separate symbols ran smoothly together like beads of mercury joining as one and formed a line with a triangular shape jutting fin-like from one side.

She turned back into the bathroom. Then she realised it wasn't her voice at all. It buzzed lazily and came back to life leaving Molly staring around her. Cat was really the only source of information they had now. They weren't blinking. The shoes were wrong. She pulled at the flannel of her pyjama bottoms that were riding uncomfortably high after going to the toilet. plunging the section of corridor outside Liz Dancey's flat into thick darkness. she wanted to pee again. Even if he did they wouldn't be dirty like that. She didn't look mad. With the brush in her mouth she opened the bathroom door and peeked out. and her eyes were wide open and staring out from her dark face. mum would be mad. she wiped at her mouth crudely. She had left her to dry herself and get herself ready after her bath while her mum had gone to see who had called at the front door. More toothpaste spit splattered the carpet. she began to think her mum should have come to hurry her along into her bed by now. If . Rachel had decided to get the hell out of the building after the warnings she had received on the stairs. She left the brush in her mouth and slapped the mirror mounted light. Just lately she never left it unlocked. She found herself whining. Mickey Mouse's plastic head dug into her small pale coloured palm. She heard her whine grow louder. and the way she was laying looked too uncomfortable to sleep. The front door was open and it was dark in the corridor outside. She brushed her teeth thoroughly with her Disney toothbrush. "Mum?" Something moved in the dark behind her mum. Mum would never sleep on the floor. The fluorescent light on the mirror was flickering again. "MUM!" The shoes suddenly moved.Chapter Thirty 167 Chapter Thirty One Five doors down from Cat's flat the fluorescent tube of the corridor flickered. The hallway was dark with only a shaft of light from the lounge giving away any details from the gloom. Uncomfortably. Moll Dancey tiptoed on her red plastic step bringing her level with the bathroom sink and stared at her cold fluorescent lit reflection in the mirror. Mum never left the door open at night. Why was the front door open? Why were the lights outside out? Where was mum? Something was wrong. but only two steps down she had stopped herself. The shadows were too dark. Even though they didn't love each other any more daddy would not be standing there while mum was lying funny on the floor. The fluorescent on the mirror flickered and for uncomfortable seconds the darkness stole all the detail of the bathroom and an alternative room where everything was painted black replaced it. Moll slurped the toothpaste from her lips and stepped back from the mess soaking into the carpet. She frowned. slammed and locked the door and backed up towards the sink. the sound was all around her. buzzed and died. Mickey Mouse gagged her scream. she looked asleep. There was a shape above the shoes that she couldn't make out. In one tug Moll was yanked backwards off her feet into a green fire. uncertain if she could trust the light to stay with her. Daddy didn't live there anymore. A thick drop of white Colgate saliva fell from her mouth to the carpet. The stepped over her mum towards Moll. Except mum was lying on the floor. She peed hot and freely down her legs as a sound built over her shoulder and she knew there was something else impossibly behind her. Her arms were snatched painfully behind her before she could turn. She didn't like the dark. but Moll knew she couldn't be. even in the daytime. Moll saw that they were the black grubby toes of men's shoes picked out by the dim light from the lounge. the buzz of flies filled the air. All Molly could see of her dark face were her white eyes and the toothpaste spit around her mouth.

Cat hated Rachel. but after the hospital she had more of an idea. The fluorescent tube nearest that end of the corridor flickered sporadically. Hate was another strong emotion. Every time it dimmed or winked out the corridor became shorter and the darkness stepped closer. Rachel rattled the door knocker gently and waited. The door tore open and Rachel's world crashed suddenly into focus on Cat. "Kelly let me in" Rachel smiled as best as she could with her face feeling like it was carved from stone. It was so quiet on this level that she could hear its ticking and rasping death rattle. Though she only saw snatches of his profile in the bursts of light she was sure his eyes were on her: watching. A cool blade of fear ran under every inch of her skin at the thought of how Malik had been defeated at the hospital. I was hoping for a little respite. She could see legs. I got Kelly to buzz me in because after this afternoon I didn't think you would let me in. Cat couldn't be the monster. Just what had happened to Cat before or during that coma? Cat had always been a special child but the ability she seemed to demonstrate at the hospital was beyond seeing and talking to those that had passed. but this time her bag was open and her mobile phone was at the ready. all they could do was wait for the next disappearances or attacks and hope that they might offer some kind of answers. In fact it was so dark it was hard to see where the corridor actually finished. Someone was standing idly against a wall: waiting. Perhaps the power had been summoned by Cat's fear? Cat resented Rachel. Rachel had pressed on with her original direction and intention. Rachel had heard theories that poltergeist activity and paranormal mental abilities sometimes shared a symbiotic relationship with strong emotion. For several long moments they both stood in silence. "Shouldn't you be at her door then and not mine?" "I came to see you.Chapter Thirty 168 she gave up on pursuing Cat then Craig was right. Rachel faced Cat's door hesitantly." "You expect it to be different now?" Rachel dared to exert some attitude. Rachel's hands trembled and emotion tightened her throat and lips. yet the fear remained. What else could Cat be capable of? This new ability filled her with an unease she didn't want to admit to. especially concerning someone she cared for. "I just walked up fourteen floors to get this far. If something was going to happen to her she was going to call Kelly and shout out any details she could before she could be taken. The warning Rachel had received on the staircase and the symbolism of the rune grew more ominous. Her own talent gave her a unique perspective but Cat's power was more than any ability Rachel had thought possible or dared to believe in." If she could get invited in then maybe half the battle would be won. . When it came back from nothing it was momentarily brighter and Rachel could see further into the darkness beyond. His presence after the warning woman and the symbols of the runes on the stairs fed the sense of dread she carried inside her. Probably someone was having a cigarette outside their home. but she couldn't accept that Cat could harm her physically. maybe Cat didn't have much control over her power. Strange that she couldn't see the orange glow of city's night sky. Malik had come close to killing Cat before she had been able to retaliate. She couldn't see the single red-eye of a cigarette burning from the dark. She had been unsure of the reception she might receive on her last visit to Cat's flat. The end of the corridor was dark. "How did you get in?" Cat demanded.

see how long the visit had been. She turned her table lamp off and settled into her pillow. One that wouldn't have men coming and going.Chapter Thirty "I think you will find gravity makes it easier going down. Catherine was too young to be a responsible owner. Pets needed the same commitment from its owners as children needed from their parents. Rachel wanted to keep her locked in the stand off. neat dreams. She had gotten out of bed to see who might be calling on her neighbour Catherine -. not that she needed any evidence of drug taking beyond Catherine's 'episode'. Did Cat hate her so much? "Cat. Flavoured. Maureen recognised the visitor as the queer lady who came looking for Catherine the day before. She had. She liked to listen out for people in the corridor. The look on Catherine's face gave Maureen the impression her guest would not be staying long. still looking distracted and transfixed by the dark she stood close to her door to make room for Rachel to enter her flat. She plucked one from the bag next to her bed and sucked it with relish. She watched Cat break eye-contact as her resolve seemed to wane and consider Rachel's point. She had not found the drugs she suspected she would find. she appeared uncertain. Yes.Catherine was too nice a name to bastardise to Cat as Catherine liked to do)." One door down from Cat's flat. and after recent events she didn't like leaving her home and the distorted fish-eye lens on the world had been . She had just read her nightly ten pages of the good book when she had heard the sound of a neighbour's door knocker being rattled. It would be better off with someone who could give it a stable home. Maureen would call in on Catherine tomorrow and give her back the key she had taken the night she had been taken ill. although the way her eyes darted between Rachel and the door it was clear that she was still distracted by the watcher. Cat caught her and followed her look. She would pray that the poor kitten would find a new home. but she took advantage of the break in the stare-down for a brief look for the man that hung at the edge of the shadow. Maureen Brooke clambered back into her bed. Maureen straightened her nightdress under her and smoothed the blankets out on top of her. If it wasn't for me and my friends being there at the hospital this afternoon we most likely wouldn't be having this conversation at all. hoping she could defeat her. She heard the comings and goings in the corridor clearly because she made sure all the doors between her and her front door were open. after all it wasn't often you had the opportunity to find out what your neighbours were truly like. "Okay. She would ask after Catherine's late-caller when she returned the key and see if she might elaborate." Her tone held a balance of force and authority. She had always used the spy hole if she heard voices or movement from beyond the confines of her flat. After a few seconds Cat followed Rachel in and shut the door behind her." Cat stated pointing in that direction. A family home or some lone person who was not looking to spend their affections elsewhere. Was the poor lil kitten safe? It would be in her prayers that it finds a loving home. Cat folded her arms and sniffed coolly. Cat glanced back into the shadows at the end of the corridor and then. She rattled the bulbous sweet around her mouth and checked the time the red digits of her alarm clock displayed. and when their eyes locked again something had changed in her face. however. found a packet of contraceptive sheaths in her bedside drawer. Not with Catherine though. but judging by the frosty reception the woman received for Catherine they didn't get on at all. The woman had taken to a funny turn in the lounge. The day after Catherine had been admitted to hospital Maureen had let herself into her flat. Neat bed. If she heard Catherine's guest leave she would check the time again. 169 Rachel's resolve faltered and she slumped. Not only were the two women not close. She would have to explain about the cat running away. Rachel didn't bother to confirm if that was indeed what the gesture meant and moved into the hall of Cat's flat. She remembered the sweet smell of the contraceptives and she suddenly wanted a pear-drop. You have five minutes to explain.

She was now more focussed on the threat within the building than the menace the outside world had once represented. but now the sudden break of routine worried her. but harder this time. The almost whole sweet made a slow and painful descent down her windpipe with the funerary sweeps of Beethoven's Symphony No. The lamp was trembling. The lamp became lifeless again. The knocker sounded again. rattling the door and her heart in her chest. Maureen sat bolt upright as the lamp suddenly began to rattle and then quake on the bedside cabinet. No -. Her ears began to fill with the sound of her blood rushing through her veins. She wrestled with her anxiety. There was a broken window at the end of the corridor outside. There was no way she would open the door at this time of night. coming from her headboard. Only it wasn't her blood. as was the alarm clock. Too many bad things had happened in the flats without thinking the worst as well. It was off. She screamed a dry cracked scream as elongated fingers laced firmly together around her mid-section. The door knocker didn't sound again. but the sound of vibration. What had caused that that possession? Ol' Nick at work? Maureen surveyed the dark shapes within the room looking for phantoms and beasts among the shrouded furniture and corners. She had been disappointed at being forgotten. Her eyes flicked open and a cramped green world of shadowy shapes pressed itself against her eyeballs. the sound of her blood was growing in her ears. but the surrounding translucent liquid that suspended her upright mired her movements while the itching of her skin progressed to a distracting stinging irritation. It wasn't as dark behind her eyelids as it should have been. to not come up from her floor and see if Maureen needed any shopping brought in. That was it. The light bathed her. There was a hum. and clasped the sheets up to her chin. and this time the noise frightened her because this time it was her door knocker. She could feel it in the bed also. Not of electricity. She pursed her thin lips against the softness that threatened to fill her mouth and lungs. She snapped the light off and pressed herself back into her pillow. The bulb was glowing like dull embers. reaching a crescendo. She felt for the switch. The prospect of having to go out into the corridors to search out her friend out was daunting. clamped her eyes shut. A glowing arm lanced up either side of her before she could investigate.Chapter Thirty 170 visited more often. She turned sharply to the lamp. The mattress gave way into nothingness as if a trap door had opened and the arms snatched her down into a swallowing blaze of green light. It was a faint howling. Maureen clenched her eyes as her face became smothered by the pressure all around her body. she quickly pulled at the gristly bones but made little impression on them. She had enough food for another day but the milk was going sour. . 7 in A cramming itself in her ears. She couldn't help thinking the light and the clock were trying to give away her presence to her unwanted and persistent caller. Maureen thrashed to fight free. The wind.no it wasn't. She slapped the clock gently but the display stopped flickering on its own. Her eyes suddenly stung. she might have taken to hiding away like herself or she didn't want to think about it. her heart in her throat and the pear-drop still sinking. She tutted to herself around her sweet. The door knocker rattled firmly. She jolted and swallowed her pear-drop as the alarm clock suddenly unleashed Classic FM much louder than she would ever normally have it. who normally got her groceries. She fumbled with the clocks controls with trembling hands and killed the music. She was instantly still. snatched breaths through taut lips. It was in the room with her. and she had to blink and squint against the light from her bedside lamp that had somehow switched on of its own accord. wrapping itself around her in a cloying embrace that soaked through her nightclothes and became close and warm against her skin leaving it tingling and itching. She opened her eyes and could make out details of the room much more clearly than she normally could. The red digits of her clock trembled with her. Maureen's stomach writhed with unease. she dismissed. Something was out of kilter. It was unlike Phyllis.

"You wanted help." Rachel added. Rachel coughed through strangling emotions.Chapter Thirty 171 Her vision focussed while she struggled against the confines of her new world and some of the shapes became sickeningly recognisable as bones and limbs. "You may not need me on a terrestrial level. a stray kitten made its home with me. Maureen withdrew her wasted hands from her work. Old news. Children. I don't need you. but if there was one she hid it well. her hopes turned to horror as she saw her skeletal fingers at the centre of the murk as the swirling tracks of her skin threaded away." Rachel justified her conclusion by relaying the events at the hospital with the plea for help within the coffee and the waking nightmare she had experienced." "Yeah I know. Some violent deaths too. stern face and tightly crossed arms compensated for any closeness their proximity created. She scratched at the pliable membrane that kept her sealed in. coming apart completely in a slow moving brown-reddish murk in the wake of her sudden movement. but barely moved within the tight claustrophobic embrace of her surroundings. The hall was narrow and it was hard being so close to Cat and not be able to pull her into a hug and have the reunion she desperately dreamed about. Rachel realised that although Cat had invited her into her flat she wasn't going to be invited beyond the hall. Thick clumps of her own flesh broke away. Cat's sharp eyes. her eye sockets empty her face slowly drifting away in the liquid like tendrils of slowly melting dark ice. With excitement she carried on digging and squinted through a brown haze that now filled her vision around her hands. only to see the girls head disintegrate abruptly. Because what happened to you seems to be linked to what is happening in this building I wanted to . People have been going missing with no explanation -. She swam as furiously as she could. panicking for release from the nightmare as her veins burned and a great pressure bore down on her fragile chest with the lack of oxygen in her body. but on a spiritual level." "While you have been in hospital a lot of bad things have been happening. knowing that any weakness of tears would be scorned. with the lights and tricks of perception. a child's face." Rachel tried to swallow against the constriction of her throat from Cat's words but they didn't go away. "You have been in a coma for a little over three weeks --. then something infinitely more familiar. When your neighbour let me in I realised it was your cat. "But some weeks before Claire Chambers even called me and I found out about you being in hospital. Desperate panic raced through her as she choked on the thick environment that now reached inside her frail body and delicate lungs and she found her nylon night dress breaking down. dissolving as it drifted past her eyes as they closed to the world for the last time. dissolving around her body in coloured streaks in the liquid around her. Maureen's fingers finally found a firm boundary in her cramped vertical enclosure and scrambled at it. The pain pressed itself deeper into every nerve ending and her vision began to darken. "But.from behind locked doors in some cases. "I thought it might be a sign that you needed me. finally accepting her fate as her strength left her and she gave into the consuming black vacuum within her chest as she starved of oxygen. Maureen gave up the last of her held breath to scream." she paused searching for a reaction. her neighbours girl Moll Dancey." Rachel rushed an explanation of how she had been drawn into the events. "There have been strange happenings. Finally something gave way under her fingertips." "Psychic-fucking-lassie?" Cat's invective caused Rachel to blink. whether that was subconscious or not I think you were willing to take any help you could get. The girl twitched suddenly and Maureen withdrew in terror from the child who seemed to still be alive. Considering the damage the lounge had taken there probably wasn't anywhere comfortable to sit anyway. only to be silenced as she sucked in mouthfuls of the viscous liquid that was burning deep down into her skin.

until he ran out of ground. her jaw set forward and firm. It was good for Cat to see that she had a hard side. It came for you. 172 "I don't have any insight." "What happened? Do you know?" . fighting back. that's right. "We have established your antagonism towards me. but also a renewed anger that burned like green fires. Except this time Harry was being Harry again. "You heard about Harry I take it. I think Harry was like the guy at the hospital. Cat looked stunned by her uncharacteristic curse and her comfort in its delivery. he ran about twenty feet in that direction. Rachel took full advantage of Cat being dumbfounded by Rachel's change of tact. I'm not here to ask for reconciliation. she knew. just pity: here was a girl selfish enough to put her own petty position in an ongoing standoff in the way of helping others. Cat's damage and bitterness wouldn't allow her to help even if she could. Cat's mouth was open. so it made Harry run -. Rachel was surprised she didn't feel anger." Rachel saw she had struck Cat's guard aside. If not we can sort out returning your cat and key and I will go. Cat looked everywhere but in Rachel's direction. but despite the guilt she had stayed strong.and he kept running. "I went to Harry and Craig's floor and I just knew that whatever that badness was it was with Harry in the flat." It was agony to be so firm when all she wanted to do was repair the rift between them. Then it let him go" Rachel needed time to process what she had heard but she knew she couldn't lose Cat. Now get over it for the moment." she found herself saying. It lifted you up and then it poured itself into your head. "When When I got back here after the hospital I could feel something was wrong with the building. but even you couldn't do that much damage. playing with him -. A ball of green light. I just want to talk to you about what's been going on and if you have any insight. apparently waiting to see if Rachel had finished." she said roughly. She adopted the clipped tone she reserved for disciplining children. "You're one angry girl. purely for something to say. her eyes staring away at an angle. Cat grinned spitefully and pointed through the lounge doorway to the large plastic covered windows. "I could check the tea leaves or look at chicken entrails a bit later and get back to you. "And what of you Cat? What happened to you for you to end up in the hospital? Do you know that?" Cat turned away. Close to tears." "Crap. Why did it do that? Do you know?" "How do you know what happened?" There was fear in Cat's jade eyes. It knew Harry was lost. She looked unhappy with herself for talking to Rachel. "Yeah. being controlled by something." Rachel studied her loafers. "I had a vision when I was here. I didn't know where or what it was. I sensed something like it in the Chambers' homes." Rachel could play her game.Taunting him. Rachel pointed at the carnage of the lounge." Cat stared at her. but as I walked I just knew I was getting close to whatever it was. About five minutes after you told Craig that there was something in the flat with Harry. He jumped off the roof.Chapter Thirty talk to you to find out if you had any insight that could help us in our investigation." Rachel stated bluntly. "Yes." Cat uncrossed her arms and planted her hands on her hips. She saw the sudden change of direction confused Cat. Something bad. "I don't remember that happening.

" She realised her voice had been desperately insistent and as Cat stiffened and disengaged she knew she had pushed too hard." . Rachel channelled a frustrated sigh into a slow exhalation and spoke calmly. even on an investigation level what would she have? Her part-time job at Sainsbury's and her tipples.Chapter Thirty "No. "I think you do. She could hear the desperation in her voice. "Please Catherine. and realised the depth of her own despair.she needed Cat to tell her anything she could so she could rebuild her understanding and confidence in the spiritual world. what was happening in this building had turned her world upside down -." Cat stated bluntly. If she found that world too frightening to engage with." 173 "You do. She would have to start out again." "I don't remember and I don't know anything. Without the spirit world what would she be? A lonely old woman? Most of her friends were from the spiritual church she attended and communed for or were linked to her paranormal interests. How small and lonely life would get. and I think what you do know frightens you. with Malik? Please tell me. What happened at the hospital.

He cursed several times. threw on his trainers and began thumbing through his mobile. Shaken by Craig's warning she fumbled to end the call. She ran her fingers through her hair and let it fall about her head and face. I have to warn her. "Craig? Craig what's wrong? Did you have a nightmare?" "People being killed and taken. He has told us to get out of the building. Now. Lots of them. Quickly." "Get out. His face was pale and drawn. or make him think she was a crazy woman. He thinks were in danger" "Danger?" her tone was incredulous. her eyes wild. Maybe he was uncomfortable? Kelly stepped out of the duvet and padded over to Craig. "Yes. What was going on? "Quick. go get some clothes on. get dressed we have to get out of here. her stomach lined with lead." Kelly could only mouth the start of several different sentences." Craig leapt up and climbed into his tee-shirt and jeans. The wildness faded from his eyes as he tore his way back into consciousness and became aware of his surroundings and Kelly. ran his hands up over his face and back down again. "Cat.Chapter Thirty 174 Chapter Thirty Two Kelly strained to read the lines of her book with aching eyes. placed the phone back in her bag and tidied the contents around it. She leaned forward out of her warm duvet cocoon and sat the unsatisfying book down on the table and rubbed at her weary eyes that were ready to give in to sleep. She and Cat are in danger." . Please trust in me. but only a moment ago she had looked scared. How long had it been since she had felt someone else's fingers in her hair? Craig groaned lightly in his sleep and Kelly squinted at Craig's huddled form on the sofa in the darkness. "Not with you. but strangely Craig looked older than his twenty-four years. They felt small and deeply set as tiredness tightened the muscles around them. shout at him. Something wasn't right. but I ask you to think back to the time when you did trust me. She withered down onto her knees and felt the form of his still body through the duvet and gently nudged him." Rachel ended the phone call. He moved. and she yelped and fell away from his wide and mad eyes. Fear ran like spider-legs scuttling across her pounding heart. Twenty-four! His age didn't bare thinking about. Craig's body snapped upright into a sitting position. but also didn't want to panic him. Let's leave. but his reaction to her waking him was as if she had brought him back from the brink. I'm calling Rachel. She had always thought that people looked younger when they slept. giving herself time to process his demand and decide how to explain it to Cat who strangely looked scared and ready to break into a run already. Was he breathing? She wanted to shake him. he looked panicked and uncertain. that was Craig. "Kelly. get him to react to show he was alive. The spark was back and he had the glow of life about him. Rachel. Get out. I know you aren't going to believe me." "Go? I'm not going anywhere" she reiterated with less conviction. it was like looking at the face of a corpse.

"The stairs" Cat instructed firmly. Around twelve metres away at the other end of the corridor the opening to the stairs was suddenly replaced by a closed door. If that went then there would only be five lights between them and the dark. and Rachel heard herself yelp in fear as the great darkness hauled itself on to their heals. A light died. The fluorescent light that lit Cat's section of the corridor was going the same way as the one Rachel had noticed earlier. Although. Rachel grabbed Cat and spun her round to witness it. losing her grip of the door several times in her clumsy panicked haste. . banging their fists. "It's jammed. and the darkness swallowed another section of corridor. but the fluorescent that had just passed overhead became her prime concern when it began to flicker and dull. aware that every second wasted in argument could be a second closer to being taken and whatever fate that may lead to. She was trembling. The noise was terrible but that could draw people out of their homes to help them. but what good were doors and walls now? There was something standing in that deep black well. gratitude and hope swell within her. It snapped shut with an ear-jarring boom that rolled down the corridor and back several times. It's fused shut!" Rachel and Cat exchanged desperate glances then in unison they both worked at pushing the door. frustration and resignation. the thing you're afraid of in this building won't stop at putting you in a coma this time!" Cat's hand was suddenly in hers and the contact created an overwhelming mixture of grief. Rachel found herself yanked into the corridor and pulled after Cat who was breaking into a run for the lit section of corridor. kicking it. the whole corridor in that direction was lost to shadow and blackness. The idea of the blackness being on top of them was all Rachel needed to spur her into matching Cat's speed. The safety glass in the door was toughened and laced with metal mesh and offered no weakness. but she was distracted from the moment and any meaning it might have for her by Cat tugging her to the front door. Could she leave her? "I know it sounds stupid Can't you just humour an old woman? If it's nothing then -then it probably confirms that I'm a silly old bitch and you can laugh at me! or" "Or what!" Cat objected defiantly in a contrary hysterical half-laugh. with everything that had been happening maybe they wouldn't come. and as Rachel feared. The residents might be too scared." Rachel bit back her angry humour and attempted to calm her voice. Rachel's instinct was to turn back and shut the door. torn between Cat and the door. it would not move. Standing in the doorway she saw that all the lights to the right of Catherine's door had failed. Cat pulled the door open. In a cacophony of trampling footfalls they reached the fire escape door. The fourth light began to flicker almost immediately. Rachel could hear creaking coming from its direction and could see the square of glass twitching and scattering its reflections and didn't understand what was happening. The line of light over their head failed as they ran. "Or maybe. less than two metres from them. and she then understood the creaking noise that she had just heard. Some might already have been taken. Outside the door the corridor had been replaced by a fluttering darkness. Might not want to get involved. and seconds later they made it into the light of the next fluorescent. She screamed and balled and punched and slumped against the door in fits of fear.Chapter Thirty 175 "I will happily give you a head start if it gets you out that door and away from danger. leaving only eight metres of light between them and the dark. She ran her fingers to the seams and found the door was bloated to the jamb. just out of reach from the intermittent flashes of light from the fluorescent line above them. It seemed that she needed no more convincing.

Chapter Thirty "We can't get back to my flat. Utter uselessness descended upon Rachel. The world flickered. She hushed her body. like a boxer ready to spar." 176 "Walls are useless against it anyway. I'm not going through that. The light flashed and died." Cat looked like the terrified little girl Rachel had read stories to during thunderstorms. Footfalls. robbing them of any light that might permeate the encroaching wall and help them see what might be coming for them. Three lights and six metres of light. . Something was walking slowly towards them within the encroaching dark. and then the last few metres of corridor collapsed into nothing and the darkness consumed them. The light from the stairs the other side of the door dimmed flickered and fizzled out. Slow even footsteps coming from the darkness. Doorframes and walls disappeared into the void. Rachel stepped back and became flush with the door. faltering in and out of existence. Rachel heard something. Two lights and four metres of light. One light and two metres of light. it can just come through them and get you. and over the sound of her rushing blood and pounding heart was a sound. Cat balled her fists up ready.

There was no need for words. He should have been able to see some light from the corridor of Cat's floor but there was none. He didn't like the idea of searching Rachel and Cat out in the darkness. and felt his way to the door. and could just make out the window in the fire escape door. Craig dove to Cat's side and could tell by her weight and he limpness that she was out cold. and they had to keep running. "What was that noise?" Craig didn't know what had just happened with the door and he didn't have the wits or breath to answer. Fortunately rushing as best as he could meant his foot had less time on the ground and his tendons spent less time extended which didn't seem to cause as much discomfort as walking. he was a pull-back car fully charged and committed to on one action and direction. . Help us! Oh God. but he was getting closer to the terrible desperate banging. The wooden door disintegrated in a roar of splintering twisting timber that echoed and screeched as the fire door shredded and concertinaed unnaturally against the wall.Chapter Thirty 177 Chapter Thirty Three Craig had quickly found a routine for climbing the stairs that involved leaning heavily onto the banister and pushing himself forward. The lights on his flight of the stairs suddenly failed and he was pitching himself into complete blackness. his hands held before him and just discernable from the dark. His eyes adjusted as best as they could to the dark and he could see the door and the wall it was set within. He reached the landing and the banging pounded into his ears. Craig had decided it would have been impossible to use the crutch the hospital had given him to climb the stairs so he had left it at Kelly's as he rushed to Rachel and Cat. They stumbled down the darkened steps into the light of the landing below. and from his nightmare he just knew that it was going to be Rachel and Cat. but he pressed on. he forced all his strength into his good leg and pushed himself up. "Rachel? Rachel is that you?" "Craig? Craig. slumping against the wall for balance. He couldn't see what he had seen in his nightmare. She shouted above their echoing scuffing footsteps. He dragged Cat up his kneeling body then. He gave his eyes a few seconds to adjust to the dark. and through it the grey shapes of the people at the door. Rachel was tugging at her and pulling at him. Craig help us!" Craig shielded himself from a blast of air and a storm of shrapnel. and was able to pick out the details of the landing from what little light soaked into the dark from the lights on the staircase below him. but the sound of a door being frantically pounded drove him on. The door trembled under his hands with the fists that were pounding it. It was uncomfortable. Cat fell through the hole with Rachel stumbling after her attempting to break her fall. Someone was in trouble. The pain in his leg was excruciating and blotted out the feel of its movement or the feel of the floor beneath his step. throwing terrified glances over her shoulder at the darkness she had just escaped from. Craig's manoeuvrability was seriously impaired by his leg and by Cat. but he knew it was there. using his bad leg for a little spring and his good leg for some serious leverage. splitting her looks between the stairs ahead and the dark behind. Now standing he scooped a limp Cat into his arms and hobbled for the stairs. A wide-eyed Kelly waited with shock and confusion written upon her face. Rachel jogged at his side with a hand rested on Cat's leg. He hobbled forwards.

"I think it's stopped. She fell away and slammed Craig against the wall and Cat's weight dug into his chest and winded him. He stumbled and lost his footing and was left grounded before their attacker. reflecting a flicker of light under the brim of the dark top hat. She looked down at her top and fingered the puncture in the fabric at her belly. giving detail to the skeletal face of sinew and raw muscle. or show any obvious wounds. He remembered Cat had been struck so he sank down to her side and ran his hands over her body in a crude pawing. With the noise of their footsteps it was impossible to hear if they were being followed. but he had no idea to what degree and he couldn't alter his hold of Cat for fear of dropping her or falling himself. Craig's legs continued to stamp at the stairs. and he wasn't going to stop. No matter how injured she was. or how uncomfortable and awkward his hold. His legs swam as they adjusted to being immobile. and Craig witnessed her slide clumsily down the stairs to the landing below. just the soft climb of her breast. Craig felt sick at the thought of Kelly being injured. Kelly and Rachel didn't seem to be slowing. He lowered her to the ground and allowed himself to feel the pain from his injured shoulder and leg. The knife lashed out again at Kelly. like sea legs on land. their only concern was running. the jerky flexion of his leg sent fresh bouts of pain into his groin and gut. He found the rip in Cat's tee-shirt where the knife had cut and he probed some fingers within but didn't find a wound. pushing Kelly passed her own landing (there was no safety there) to escape the building. Riding a wave of desperate adrenaline Craig pushed himself upright and charged forward using Cats limp prostrate body to force the stunned Rachel scrabbling down the stairs to where Kelly was drawing to her feet. The elongated angle of metal snapped sharply back into the shadows as soon as it struck. Craig's underdeveloped biceps and triceps were strained to what felt like a painful ripping point with the constant dead weight of Cat in his arms. hitting home with a force that pushed him scrambling further down onto the steps. She had been close to being badly injured. With the kill switch thrown on the frantic workings of his body. Cat struggled awkwardly onto her elbows. corralling Kelly and Rachel down flight after flight. Craig knew Cat had been struck. in his mind that grisly undertaker was on his heels. The steps and landings blurred by as they focussed on getting to the bottom of the stairs. Craig's hands leapt from her body into an open-handed gesture of surrender.Chapter Thirty 178 A shape lunged from the darkness of the landing above them and a wide flat blade caught the light as it flashed violently across Rachel's face. His head rang with a blow to the side of his face from a suddenly animated Cat. The ambush was sudden and in seconds Rachel and Kelly had been sent to the floor and Cat had been struck leaving Craig prone for the next stab. he had to keep his grip and pace. A slick of sweat formed all over his body. he sucked in gasps of air to counter the smothering humid heat in his chest. The blade snagged on Craig's cradled load. Rachel and Kelly hugged briefly for comfort. Kelly craned upwards to try and catch some sight or sound of their pursuer on the silent stairwell above them. The undertaker from his nightmares lanced seamlessly from the darkness and his blade flashed again in a downward stab. "What the FUCK!" she barked viciously. split in a silently-laughing death's-head grin. On the ground floor landing it seemed to Craig that they all unconsciously agreed to break from the fury of their escape." she panted. searching for any injuries. "Whoa! Calm down! I was checking for injuries!" . and his bad leg burned as if he could feel he friction in his tendon.

It ignored the blow and yanked Cat further into the light.Chapter Thirty 179 Cat fingered the tear in her top and nodded her understanding without apology." The lights of the stairwell began to flicker. leaving Craig and Rachel with a foot each. Craig heard Kelly shout that she would get the door to the lobby. locked into close quarters with the creature. Really. She looked around at who was with her. "It's coming for me again. Rachel and Craig stumbled backwards in the direction they had both been pulling. It's appreciated" A sourceless breeze swept across Craig and Cat. Rachel lunged forward in wide-eyed horror and snatched instinctively at the creature's arms to free Cat. Rachel sprung back to her feet and clutched at Cat's ankles and legs to aid him in stopping Cat being dragged away. pulling her snug to its legless body. The landings above them broke abruptly away into nothing as the landings blacked out one after another sending the darkness collapsing down upon them. Kelly lunged into the skirmish with a fire extinguisher and smashed it into the creature's face. while the hands reached into the landing to snatch at Cat. "How did we get away?" Cat climbed onto her feet but her legs buckled beneath her. Despite the shock he locked his muscles and fought to keep his grip and balance against the luminescent creatures pull. The door sprang open and a coruscating green light flooded in. dragging Cat sprawling across them. then turn her momentum into a one-hundred-and-eighty degree swing that brought the metal extinguisher slamming down on the creatures head and the arm that had just returned to secure Cat. and in the intimacy of the moment he could feel her fear. The creature lost its grip and Cat swung to the floor striking her head on the concrete. Rachel and Kelly drew closer to Craig and Cat. deathly pale with her lips trembling with despair. slamming her into a wall. Kelly returned with a second strike. which resembled a chicken carcass fused to its face. It shrugged its arms out and slapped Rachel down onto the punishing concrete steps. He was completely startled by the suddenness of the attack and tottered on his toes. Craig cursed in shock and exertion. The hands wrapped their elongated fingers around Cat's arms and Craig could feel her being tugged away from him. She looked into his face. He became Cat's anchor. The heavy extinguisher tumbled into the light and disappeared. loosening Craig and Rachel's hold on Cat and stretching her prone and defenceless between them. staring into its six hauntingly human eyes divided between two gash-like sockets. its jaws gnashed and snapped like a wild dog from behind a muzzle of thin bones. The creature snarled and yanked harder. but it effortlessly batted the blow aside and snatched its hand back to Cat again. Its cadaverous face snapped in her direction and creased into a vicious leer at her interference. They swatted Kelly aside. . With a mournful howl the creature swatted Kelly back against the wall and receded back into the light. squirming against its hold. Craig panicked as his grip slid from her thighs to a weaker purchase on her knees. "No. Craig braced her instinctively and she leaned into the support. bringing with it a shrieking displacement of the atmosphere and two unnaturally long arms flailing through the air. "You're quick with your hands." He withdrew his hands reflexively but there was a fleeting panic in her eyes and she snatched hold of him before she could fall. unprepared for the tug of war. Her face inches from its bared internal organs braced against its fleshy cage of ribs. The ground floor lights failed and they were buried in the darkness. Craig's grip slipped as Cat thrashed in the manacle hands of the creature. Craig watched Kelly reel with the creatures parry. the aura grew around her as she was drawn further into its swallowing maw. The creature walked its grip down to a more secure hold under her arms.

riding her madness. Jim and Sylvia Smith. It got the mother of the two sons to speak to the scrubbing father "I'm glad they're dead. It knew as much about their minds. Maureen Brooke. but unlike the Billy-infant It was not weakening. what would kill. It was in the mind of the father who scrubbed at the pool of blood that had drained from his two teenage sons that had killed each other. what they feared. It controlled the undertaker that carried the body of Neil Harris down the stairs. increasing Its power and Its hunger. and It had only used four words of their language. and was now dissolving and merging together in a shape that It willed.and he spoke back. what would cripple. It was in Vicki Day's thoughts. It could feel the Billy-infants gnawing hunger. It understood so much about flesh. Moll Dancey and all the others It had just taken. but growing stronger. Part Three: Facing the Monster ." It watched the violence unfold. and so many more beyond. There were so many to feed upon in the tower. Stronger from the flesh of Clive Jenkins. It did not feel frustration or anger at losing the thing called Cat to the others that were now becoming aware of It. It stood before Alec Jacob's in the guise of his distant mother pleading for him to accept her as real -. a wanting and a need that It also understood. Their life-forces flowed into It. what could drive one to kill. what hurt. 180 It watched them disappear into the night and the world.Chapter Thirty Without words the four picked themselves up and fled from the building. what would break one of these things. what would be painful. for at the exact same time It watched them escape It was in other places. one of many bodies It would fetch down to the basement.

I prefer coffee now. Craig and the others had finally seen what was behind the disappearances and violence. he doubted she wanted to be there with them at all. With undeniable confirmation of there being something supernatural or paranormal behind things they now needed to decide on what the next step was. The rash looked painful and he hesitated around asking. Cat smiled wanly and stopped scratching. Cat sat slumped in the dining chair nearest the door." Her tone was softer than he had expected. It's just like an allergy I think. When the creature had let her go she had hit her head on the concrete floor. and could exist outside of his nightmares. Cautiously. and then hesitant when she saw that the only seat available was next to Cat. Her belief system was probably in tatters. "You said you didn't want anything. In places he could make out the welts where the creatures' fingers had been. and probably to fall apart in private. but he decided not to ask about her head in case he should lose his in return. completely exorcised his self-doubt and fear that somehow he was responsible for their actions. She had bluntly refused any concern or offer of aide from Rachel with a heavy dose of contempt that had sent her scurrying to the kitchen to prepare drinks for everyone. securing her exit. and Cat shuffled her chair a few inches away from her. He looked over at Kelly propped up at the table on her elbows with her head in her hands and the fall of her dark hair hiding her face from him. "I said I'm okay. He wasn't sure what to make of Cat. "Things change. Craig silently took in a deep breath and held it.Chapter Thirty 181 Chapter Thirty Four Craig found the forced quiet at Rachel's dining table unbearable. He could feel Jason's eyes burning into his back and could sense the boy's stifled urgency to know what had happened. At least there were answers now. There was a frosty exchange of looks that Kelly caught as she emerged from behind her hair to claim her drink. she seemed to spend most of her time in anger. Rachel looked dejected. "Looks sore" Craig braved nodding to Cat's wrists." Cat looked up and fixed Rachel in a firm stare. and although those things were terrifying and their reality nauseating he experienced euphoric relief whenever he thought of them. I remembered that you will only drink a hot drink if it's hot chocolate. waiting for answers. He had only seen fleeting glimpses of the undertaker-thing on the stairs and had spent most of the struggle with the other creature with his eyes closed against its light. but he could recall every grisly detail of both creatures into his head with the clarity of one of his photographs. Jason had seemed to accept Craig flagging down his racing questions and he had sat watching the silent group. Craig realised that he and Kelly should have put more thought into where they had sat. She divided her attention between petting the kitten that nestled comfortably on her lap and scratching at the reddish splotches that trailed from her wrists in pink veins. but it's there if you want it. The rash was all up her arms where the creature had held her. Rachel took it. it was emanating from him like radioactivity from a power plant on meltdown. Rachel appeared in the doorway bearing a tray of hot drinks and set it down on the table and handed them out. The others shared Craig's shock from their encounters and none of them had wanted to recount their experiences to Jason upon returning. he was regretting joining Kelly and Cat there and wished he had sat with Jason on the armchair. She gingerly sat a hot chocolate down in front of Cat. The fact that they were real." Cat raised her eyes at Rachel's flustered apology and her offer to make a coffee. but she was probably too much in shock to be alone. or what she felt. and shooed her away with a wave of a hand. but fortunately Kelly's face softened before Cat could notice . she responded with a look of disgust at Cat.

"Having a tea party is hardly pro-active." she colluded. "Maybe we should all just chill out a bit? A lot's happened. Of course. yes. He was sure Kelly had faced off against much more intimidating girls than her." and he took a swig. Three volatile women sat around the table. but gave in. Cat ignored him and kept her focus on Rachel. Hopefully I'm not the only one in shock. After an awkward silence he looked up. He felt a pang of guilt at leaving all the peace making to Kelly. "How would you prefer to react to what's happening?" Kelly's response was quick but calm and even. "That wasn't much. "Aren't you going to top your own up?" Rachel hesitated in sitting back down. then left her seat and retrieved a bottle of brandy from beside the armchair. "How about something to calm our nerves?" Kelly slid hers and Craig's mug to Rachel. don't make eye-contact with anyone. what happened?" Craig wanted to twist round and thank Jason for the timely interruption. "Get the marshmallows out! Anyone know any good camping songs?" Craig looked down at his drink again. "Good for shock. it was clear that Rachel saw the opportunity as some kind of inroad to Cat. The comment felt pointed but Craig didn't have a clue what about. An uncomfortable brace of tension had settled across the table between the two women.don't you?" Cat took a deep slug. careful to not let any of his satisfaction be read in his face. That choice is still open to you any time you would like to take it. With a trembling hand she sloshed a shot into Kelly's mug then his. "I'm with you on that one. and Kelly softened her steely glare and allowed it to drift from Cat to the others. and hope it wouldn't go off. Focus on your drink. Or are you just topping up on what you added in the kitchen?" A little voice from over Craig's shoulder cut in insistently. just held her gaze. Rachel and Kelly shared a look of uncertainty with each .Chapter Thirty 182 her expression. Kelly didn't appear shaken and didn't seem to need to posture in return. Maybe we can just focus and work out what's going on?" He was rewarded by a weak smile of gratitude from a beaten and vulnerable looking Rachel. He was relieved at having a negotiator at the table and he dared to look up again from his mug and found Cat glaring back at Kelly. "You wanted to escape that thing and you had a choice in where you escaped to." Cat pushed. "So. just as Cat raised her mug in a toast to the table and a spiteful grin twisted her face. The three women looked surprised. while the question was challenging. Cat slid her mug over and Rachel looked unsure whether to dose her." She finished seating herself and poured a meagre shot into her own mug. I just think there's always an excuse for alcohol -. Don't look up. "If you say so." One-point to Kelly! Craig called out in his head. Craig joined everyone else in nursing their drinks and decided he would take the first opportunity to join Jason at the sidelines. as if they had forgotten Jason was even in the room. her vivid green eyes as hard and sharp as emeralds. Rachel looked caught. He decided to jump on the grenade of a situation. and Craig hoped it was sobering. "I er.

"Yeah. "Whatever it is it's not Albert anymore. "It had flesh.that came for Jason and you Cat." "Is there a difference?" Kelly asked incredulously. Albert Taylor was the first to disappear and he was an undertaker. but he had already encountered the thing that had tried to take Cat. "It was more like a zombie. "Craig dreamt it. 183 Craig could see that Kelly and Rachel were uncomfortable sharing this with Jason. deciding for them." Kelly stated flatly." Kelly offered reluctantly. clearly trying to distance herself from the absurdity of the explanation. but when she did answer him her tone was easy. and she returned the mug to the table and hugged herself in a play of being cold. So it is a zombie. but her hand quaked. Rachel grinned fondly at Cat." "Actually. Jason was young." "This isn't a bonding moment. "The same thing that came for me?" "A creature that reaches out from a burst of green light to grab you. even though it was in a conversation where monsters where being discussed. actually. so that makes it a zombie. . not any more. but were actually up against two monsters. "I think anyway. and he guessed it was some left over resistance at sharing what was confidential police information. how much should they tell him? "It came for me." Cat snapped.Chapter Thirty other that Craig understood." Cat played with the handle of her mug as if she couldn't be bothered to impart her insight." She said. it felt good to be talking about what had happened. but it can't be Albert though. it might even help to piece together a better understanding of what was going on. "It was dead and it shouldn't be walking-around-dead." Craig cut in. he didn't want their debriefing to be derailed." "There was a skeleton thing too." The reality tainted the humour in the irony for him. he's right. Sounds like it." "And there was the other thing -." "Oh. "It looked like it was dressed as an undertaker. "How did you know me and Rachel were in trouble anyway?" Craig and Kelly shared an uneasy look. "You always did know your horror stuff. she looked back at him and this time it was apologetic. It was emaciated Dead and rotting. I feel so much better now. but not only do we have to accept that mum and dad were talking bollocks. his absence made him a suspect when the first Chamber's girl went missing didn't he?" Kelly hesitated." Cat stated." Craig added." Cat avoided eye-contact and sought her mug in distraction. "Kelly. Craig twisted round in his chair so that he could see Jason too. it had come for Jason and he had faced it alone. "Yes." Kelly shook her head and took a long drink. Craig guessed that it was the lure of pointing out that Kelly was wrong that drew her in." "We're told as kids that there are no monsters. I mean. "It was different to the undertaker. Cat frowned." Rachel nodded. which Kelly broke from. I don't quite understand it.

" Rachel joined in. That would certainly fit with what happened to Jason. Maybe you could share your insight?" Cat snapped out of her thoughts. Craig thought of Vicki. glanced briefly at Rachel before returning to stare at her mug. "I had terrifying dreams when I was in my coma." Cat didn't volunteer any ideas or answers but stared intently at the mug she cupped in her hands. she was lost in memory. Undeterred. "In light of what just happened at the flats I guess I don't have to feel stupid about how that sounds. "The staircase is meant to be locked. taking people." "Mr Sparky. although through the blankness of her stare Craig could tell she wasn't seeing the mug or her hands. making me physically weaker and weaker. but I think it was that undertaker. "If my dreams are right then maybe everyone on your floor is dead or gone now.I saw it.I looked at it after I developed it and there was someone in the background. and from what we have seen the undertaker walks about stalking its victims. Fortunately Rachel didn't allow herself to be riled by her and ignored the behaviour. "I keep dreaming about things at The Heights -.and they happen. her face furrowed with interest." He took a swig of his drink and let his words sink in while the alcohol took its numbing affect. "Now we are away from that place and we are safe will you tell us?" .Chapter Thirty 184 Craig sighed and shrugged." She smiled pleadingly." Craig stared into the dark still surface of his drink seeking distraction in its depths. "It messed my head up for a bit. "So maybe the thing that tried to snatch Cat can just appear then disappear. Rachel pursed her lips and folded her arms on the table as she leaned forward into Cat's line of sight. What was going on in your dreams? Did you actually see me and Rachel?" Suddenly her keen interest vanished at realising she had become more involved than she had wanted. the undertaker. Even though I was in my coma. but after each nightmare I was always weaker and the struggle was always that more difficult. I was always fighting to become conscious. "And that other thing. That door was locked: stuck solid. Moving down flat by flat under the cover of darkness. Killing people." Craig defended. Horrible things. "What happened to you at the flat that led to you being in a coma? We never got the chance to finish that conversation.like how we got out of that corridor back there. it fidgeted and was quickly withdrawn. but Rachel's confidence seemed to wane. I kind of felt responsible for what was happening." The heat of his embarrassment washed away with an icy quicksilver as the memories returned to him. It's been locked since the shops were burnt out and went out of business. He sounded distant and Craig knew it was because it was the name that the twins. lurking on the stairwell." After what Kelly must have considered a suitable wake she spoke. "Each nightmare seems to drain me. The undertaker-thing could be using those doors to travel between floors unseen. just a silhouette. "Or maybe it can just appear out of nowhere like that creature that came for Cat. You started to talk before we had to make our escape. It came from the abandoned fire escape onto your floor. "There's so much I don't understand -. Yet it disintegrated and folded away as if a hurricane had swept through." Rachel made sense to Craig and it felt good to be talking about their experiences and possibly piecing things together. and she dropped back on her chair and folded her arms tightly as if she had given up on the question. it's a fire escape that led down into the old shopping arcade at the base of the flats and out onto the street. but the touch grew hot." Jason said. Jason's best friends. "I took a photo earlier -. although the uneasiness remained. it also goes down into the basement where the shops had stock rooms. I saw horrifying things happening at The Heights too. had used for the creature that had taken them away." Helplessness weighed upon him at the uncertainty of Vicki's safety or fate." Cat leaned closer. even if it was just guess work. "There's a lot we don't know here." Kelly's hand rested reassuringly on his arm. "No -.

but louder so that Rachel would be able to hear from the kitchen. the kitten yelped and leapt to the floor as the lap was whipped away from under her. "It might be for you." Kelly made a play of being confused. We saved your skin. Well she's not my mum. "Cat.Chapter Thirty 185 "I didn't ask to be here!" Cat exploded like a jack in the box. her face torn up in hate. so maybe you do owe us a little something." Rachel jumped up and dashed to the kitchen. who's just glad of the attention because she spends most of her time with dead people. avoid hearing the truth!" she called after her with satisfaction reinforcing her tone. "I don't want to talk about it!" Cat barked back at her. trying to be a second mum to me. I'm sure if anyone should go missing in between that time they will understand!" Cat shoved her chair back and stood up sharply." Kelly got up and waved Cat down. "None of this is about you and Rachel. "-. like you said. "She's a sad old woman. He had an unsettling intuition that things could easily get out of hand. "Yeah. she jerked her attention between Craig and Kelly and continued her tirade. and Cat responded by retreating a few paces. She was always hanging around my mum. Kelly threw her hands up in frustration. "You must have been so glad when you saw your chance. "Don't worry. "I think that was my reminder to you earlier. come on. "I didn't ask to be here! Thanks very much for saving me but I don't have to stay you know. "My mum's gone and Rachel is not taking her place! Rachel's just a sad old dyke who needs a crutch in life -. it's about kids going missing. but then you bowl up to my flat as if I owe you something. "You turn up at the hospital. They're just letting off a bit of steam. and fair enough." Craig got up from the table and sat on the armchair next to a very worried looking Jason." he whispered to the boy." Cat's eyes narrowed. why won't you talk to us?" Rachel appealed." "She lost her own baby and she thinks I can take its place. but she's just using this as an opportunity." Craig winced and braced himself. Craig realised he was holding his breath. He could see that Kelly was . about people being murdered and killed in horrific ways!" Kelly offered a placating hand to Cat's arm but she shrugged it roughly away. "Hey. Kelly jumped in. "Go on. you saved my skin by getting Malik sent away.you were glad to get back in again you're so sad and lonely. "You're loving all this aren't you? I told you to stay away and ever since you've been waiting for a time or a way to get into my life again." Rachel slumped dejectedly in her chair with a hand to her face as if she was pained." Kelly rounded the table to Cat." Cat's voice rose higher. startling to kitten on her lap. why don't you go home and give us a call when you're ready. Settle down. mate. "Because I don't want to be here with YOU!" Cat stabbed a finger in Rachel's direction. "Oh that's okay." Although Rachel had fled Cat's eyes remained wild.and it's not going to be me!" Craig blinked in surprise as Kelly met Cat's hysteria with a slap across the face.

Momentarily stunned and unsure what had happened. Craig dashed to Kelly's side and helped her into a more comfortable position. The kitten pressed itself to the floor before Cat. she looked dazed and nodded that she was okay. and it unleashed a protracted rolling mewl that ended in a spiteful rasp and hiss.Chapter Thirty 186 just as shocked by her reaction and was instantly regretting the decision. moving closer to Cat to comfort and apologise to her. Cat recoiled from the slap and snapped her head back to face Kelly. its fur bristled and its ears angled back. . toppling over a dining chair and onto the floor. and suddenly Kelly was thrown away.

but for Kelly to be thrown from her feet there had to have been some kind of blow. It had not been a hurricane that had torn down the doors for Cat and Rachel to escape. The kitten had retreated away from Cat cowering on its belly but still wild. wincing with obvious discomfort. and that unnerved Craig. . too right you shouldn't have!" "I have said sorry and that's it. You have your issues with Rachel." Craig dared. We are meant to be here to help each other understand what is going on. Was it concern or fear that Craig saw there? It was quickly replaced with angry indignation. "Cat. Cat snapped at the hissing kitten. You and Rachel might be the only ones that can help us figure out what is going on. "Yeah. and that is all I care about. "You okay?" he broached warily." "I just wanted to see if she was ok. Done." The kid shrugged under his arm. come back Girl. it turned tail and clawed its way out the room." She pleaded. warning Cat from coming any nearer to Kelly." Kelly struggled to her feet. yet he had already seen the man at the hospital crushed by a bed with a force that Cat could not have physically summoned. It unleashed another whine and hiss. "You know I don't think Kelly meant to hit you. "Sorry you had to be around for all that mate. Craig thought she looked as if she would cry. It's not important to us.Chapter Thirty 187 Chapter Thirty Five Craig held up a hand. Cat shrugged scowled. And to be honest considering people have gone missing and died. but we don't. and spat her words out vehemently. It had all happened so quickly it was easy to think that he had missed a part of the action. back off. and Cat appeared to instantly regret the action and swore. Cat I am sorry. but we are all under stress and I think it would be good to take five and just chill out. Jason nodded looking a little scared and Craig sat on the arm of the chair and draped an arm across the lad's shoulders. I am not taking sides. and hundreds of others could be at risk of the same fate in that building I hoped you might feel the same. sensing something from her that terrified the animal. "What?" she stamped her foot in its direction. leave it. and tightened her crossed arms stoically." Her face was ashen. Cat had not physically lifted a finger against Kelly for her to end up on the floor. who helped her through to the kitchen. When Kelly had been knocked to the ground Craig had felt a phantom spike of otherworldliness that had teased the hairs on the back of his neck and goosed his skin. looking anywhere but at him. not slap each other around. "It's okay Craig. Come on. You were getting a bit hysterical. The tears had gone. With both older women gone Craig returned to Jason's side and asked if he was okay. He was sure that Cat had made no contact with Kelly. "What do you think?" She snapped back. No." Cat postured and stabbed a finger in her direction. "She hit me!" "I know. and she shouldn't have. "Oh. She was trying to bring you round. Cat was more than a nineteen-year old girl with a chip on her shoulder. I shouldn't have slapped you." She smiled a thank you at Craig and limped towards the doorway and a distraught looking Rachel.

" but Jason didn't laugh. Crag squeezed the boys shoulder as he continued undeterred. "Seems like you have pushed her away too. floundering and flushed. They had the freedom and the resources to run away and no one else to convince to do the same. she's just a friend. she clearly wasn't going to be responsive to any attempts to restore the status quo and he gave up trying. "Yeah I know. Cat's face wrinkled up in a frown. I'm a girl and everyone calls me Cat. We have only known her a short while and it's hard for us to hear that when she has been so good to us. she could easily breakdown any moment and that wasn't going to help them or her. he had seen her terrified. Kelly and Craig have taken me in to keep me safe. but like Jay said. Cat. maybe the quicker you can get away from us." "In a way I have lost a parent too. and come in contact with someone she clearly wanted nothing to do with because of childhood issues. "That's her name. angry. Don't go all 'Mr Sensitive' knowing your girlfriend is in earshot. Rachel. You got it off your chest. hysterical. You people are the only people I know that believe me or have any idea what is really happening so I need you all to work together. but what do you want to hurt more? Her or the 'thing' that tried to get at you?" She doubled forward on her seat as if his words had caused her to fold in on herself. "We get the idea that you and Rachel don't get on. if you could put any differences aside just for now. "You don't have to explain. very aware Kelly was only in the other room. Because at some point I am going to have to go home with mum. Jason couldn't just run and abandon his mum." "That's funny." Craig got up and reclaimed his seat at the table and offered her a disarming smile. his tone firm and even. Don't try and use me to score points. and even though bad things had happened at the tower he was unlikely to convince her to leave their home. at least Kelly and Craig had a choice about whether they stayed at The Heights. She didn't rip his throat . "Huh?" "You called the kitten Girl earlier. We are all trying to work to the same aim. In the brief time since Craig had met Cat. "Whatever! I didn't ask for your life story. it wasn't worth the hassle. Cat broke eye-contact and raised an eyebrow in contempt. try not to worry about anything that's happened here. and we both might go missing and end up dead like the others." "She's not my girlfriend." Craig watched Cat wilt with shame." Cat dropped back in her chair and studied her arms with a blank face. and they are probably dead." Craig shook his head and flopped back against the support of the armchair. Even he had forgotten about the degree of Jason's predicament. My granddad is terminally ill and he's going to die. After a time she spoke. so I called my cat Girl.Chapter Thirty 188 "You were really giving Rachel a hard time there. "You call your cat Girl?" Craig was just as surprised by Jason's question as Cat looked to be. I can't tell my mum about the danger we are in living at The Heights. attacked several times. My best friends have been taken by the monsters. and she rubbed her face roughly with her hands as if she could re-arrange the thoughts and feelings within like a Rubix cube. Especially with what we have been through together lately." Her face softened into blankness." he shot back." Cat snapped at Craig. It's not like that. "Look.

"That is interesting. apparently after three oak trees that had stood on the land. don't you think?" He laughed in the hope that Kelly would be more likely to agree but she just shrugged and fingered the edge of the table." "Yes. We just need to get some idea of what's happening. They haven't turned up anything from the news archives or anything." she whispered for everyone to hear and gave him a playful wink. With all the excitement of today I forgot to mention that David and his girlfriend Kim have been at the library all night doing research for us. Rachel and Kelly must have gathered from whatever they could hear from the kitchen that this would be a good time to return to the group. and it's like they are looking back at you from another time? Well. one in the lobby at the flats. "It's quite a big coincidence though. probably assuming (and rightfully) that after his intervention he deserved to be in the thick of whatever was going to be discussed and decided. Cat stated an apology with little depth. her eyes were red and swollen from crying. in support of what were facing being old. But. but he was surprised that he got a half-laugh from her. it feels like it has rooted around in everything. "That's accepted. she seemed grateful for the absolution and apologised herself. none of my thoughts feel private anymore. Cat flashed Craig a grin as everyone settled back down around them." Kelly gave an exaggerated nod. Also. I think it is old. While she picked at her rashes he gave a discrete nod to Jason as recognition for his intervention. you can see their age in their eyes. yet she was still digging her heels in at accepting anything outside of her rational ordered world. but they have found an interesting pattern from some books on local history and maps -. "I am grateful that you have helped me out. before that there were three pubs in that part of the neighbourhood. Like I have spoken all my secrets. Fortunately Craig didn't have to think how to respond because she carried straight on." he joked unable to help himself. as much as it looked into me I think I have sensed something of 'it'. Smart kid. "Coincidence." she complimented with warmth that dissolved before she addressed the others.Chapter Thirty 189 out so it seemed Jason had had some effect. but Kelly took it. Very old. but I guess it doesn't tell us much though. "About what you said earlier: I'm glad to hear you're single. and before that when the area was wild there was a pub on a stage route named The Three Oaks. she had Vicki's mischief in her. They all took back their seats and Jason dragged a footstool to the table this time so he could join them. but I'm just not usually a team player." Although Rachel looked momentarily saddened before she could hide her reaction. on your own time. before that there were three farm buildings. Rachel. it has three towers now. like when you look into an old person's face." Kelly frowned. "No one is expecting us all to get along. He couldn't help but like her though. while Rachel simply delivered a curt nod in Cat's direction. I got that feeling from whatever was in my head.it would seem the land the towers are on has been influenced by the number three. I wondered whether it might be something ancient. Kim's a librarian. "Jason is right. You know. Surely?" Craig was a little disappointed in Kelly. seen so much. "It does suggest that there could have been some influence on this land for some time. While the apologies had been made this was clearly only a momentary truce on Cat's behalf and she was still up for playing more games. "You can kill each other later. It has been just me for quite a while and I have gotten used to that. even though she tried to hide it by looking into her lap. in fact looking . and hopefully make it easier for Kelly to accept. You can tell us what you know and go. "It got in my head. does it?" Craig added encouraging Rachel to elaborate. or stick around and see what we can do with whatever information you can give us." Cat shrugged. they had been through so much together. I have noticed several Runic symbols.

That goes some way in supporting the possibility of it being very old as runes are an ancient language." Craig joked and Kelly held her hands up in surrender and was able to laugh at herself. testing its powers at first. so their traditions died with them. So maybe that Druid influence does play a part. I have also seen a figure who has cast runes that seem to be representative of what's been happening at the flats. decapitating prisoners." Kelly reinforced. and it's not like we have a tome of ancient Druid beasts lying around. but Futhark?" "Futhark is the runic alphabet. "Druidic traditions are thought to have been passed on orally. well. but he got his Christmas bonus by using his ladders to get at the mistletoe that grew on most of the trees. and their perspective could just be propaganda. experimenting." Rachel placated lightly. the Druid connection is only conjecture. served some unknown ritualistic purpose. We probably won't ever know anything of this creatures heritage. The Vikings would have brought it to Britain. and he would sell it on to the local florists." "Yes. With severed limbs. "Whatever it is. The only written accounts are through the Romans. all of this is just conjecture." "Mistletoe?" Kelly raised her brow questioningly. Maybe it was the Druids that introduced the Futhark to them?" Craig suggested." . aren't pagans.I wondered whether those symbols repeated three times. but Kelly is right to question. "As Kelly reminded us. Even if there were a Druid connection it wouldn't really help us. physically and mentally: seeing if it could use us or control us. "Druids? You mean Stonehenge-and-human-sacrifice-druids?" Her face sharpened warily. Actually. "I know I am going to regret this. telling me about the problems he had keeping the grounds under control. He was willing to believe because without any of this background and these esoteric theories and explanations they would be no closer to an understanding.Chapter Thirty 190 through the windows of the other two towers I noticed they seem to have the same mural and I imagine the same mark hidden within. because the Druids predated the Futhark. secret practices in caves. "I remember the caretaker. both are known to be Druid icons of ceremony. but not until after the Druids had been expelled into exile." Kelly raised her eyebrows again. the rune for protection -." "Heads? In one of my dreams I saw heads. Cat jumped in. "Floating in some kind of gunk.. human sacrifices. its just I have seen him bearing a golden sickle and mistletoe. but Craig knew that Kelly was not going to accept ghostly druids and rune power. Like they had been harvested and stored away. Alec. he said the holly bushes grew like wild-fire around the building. "I think we left the yellow-brick road of reason a while back. drawing spirits from severed heads. but I don't know about the human sacrifices as very little is known about them as a culture. he didn't want to recognise any of the faces. "Actually I believe there are some thoughts that Stonehenge predates the Druids. and the perception of demonised-rituality by people that. Rachel was very matter-of-fact with her explanations." "Maybe some of the Druids headed to Norway when they were forced out." The memory frightened him.. and its just conjecture. which is why you have the romanticised-spirituality view of modern day pagans. I think it was learning about us. but I wondered if the cowled figure I have seen with the runes might have a pagan or Druidic connection." "Like you say though.

the fire doors being torn aside. Harry. and then committed to placing his hand over Kelly's. Somehow." She nodded. like everything in my head is going to pour out and drag me after it into some hole I won't be able to get out of. and that feels worse. I don't think we can be certain of any of the answers that we may think we have. but her face was tight and she couldn't speak. If it is created. it must have been keeping me alive for some reason." "If you somehow have some of its power." Rachel proposed. Malik was a relay for the thing to extend its range to watch over me in the hospital and get in my head and keep me under and out of the way. my dear. It worked and I think that might be how my flat got trashed. It seems to use people. it probably had the power to kill you at any point. But when I have had a strong emotion or my concentration slips the pressure goes. It only tried to take you out of the picture when we arrived. It got in my head the day I went into the coma. seeing if it could use its power through our minds. and it uses people to interact with the environment. I resisted. this pressure. or it didn't go to plan and I think it shut me down and put me out of the way. Or it was keeping me for something else. "Don't do that to yourself. He was forced to kill by whatever this 'thing' is? It wasn't his fault at all?" Craig reached across the table." "And that's when things happen? Malik getting crushed by the hospital bed. Maybe it's incorporeal. Rachel sighed. "Yeah. I think Malik turned on you because it lost its control over you and you could possibly use your power against it. and I have to concentrate." Kelly cleared her throat several times before she could talk through her emotions." Craig surmised. like when your really trying to keep something in your head so you can remember it for later. "If it can control people like that then it could be using anyone at The Heights" . turning weather against the enemy. Maybe they created this force or this thing for some reason. "If it were Druids that were originally behind this then a lot of their magic is thought to be around manipulating the forces of creation. "So Harry wasn't a killer. "Oh. Craig had been right to question what had happened when Kelly had been tossed to the floor. ensuring the health of coming crops. Kelly. "Maybe it didn't have the power to kill me at that point. Maybe it was monitoring me. Malik and that old guy you told me about. the power of nature and life. hesitated. which I think it is apparent that you do. I think it put part of itself in my head." "In a coma?" Cat answered Jason with a nod. "It's in my head. If it is linked to the land. "Not that I am in any way suggesting this to be aliens. like a scientist does with an experiment. Kelly being knocked across the room?" Rachel was answered by a nod from Cat.Chapter Thirty 191 "If it is an ancient creature or power. then perhaps it is trying to understand the world it now finds itself in. where the towers are. think really hard about things to distract it. the first test of using its power through me." Rachel shrugged. a force that feels too big for my skull to hold. wouldn't it know us? Why would it need to experiment with us? If anything that sounds more like alien motives." "That is how it felt to me." Kelly laughed and gave a mock surrender again." "It was using Malik to watch over you. then perhaps it uses people it controls as relays to further its range and influence to other locations.

I keep expecting to see Al from Quantum Leap appear on the bridge of the Enterprise. the snatcher thing. . Craig spoke quickly." Rachel clapped her hands together. "So. Captain Jean Luc Picard. "Oh. don't think so. Like a hive mind. "A mind that is a collection of minds. "Maybe its consciousness can divide itself up.it's because of Captain Kirk isn't it?" Kelly goaded. He withdrew it casually. I did a little bit with the two creatures but not to the same degree. Oh." "How can it be controlling different people and things at the same time?" Kelly asked incredulously. "A hive mind?" Kelly asked. "Now that's a man that is comfortable with his age and has matured well." Cat teased with a raised eye-brow." "Ooh no. "And that had nothing to do with Seven-of-Nine in her skin tight one-piece costume of course. it was a strong feeling like a presence. "So we haven't seen this creature at all then really. but I got a different feeling when it was in my head." Kelly offered. "Captain Janeway's the one for me: tough bird. it can get in people's heads. was that 'it'? Was that the monster?" Cat shook her head. no. When that creature had me and was pulling me into the light I felt that presence emanating from wherever the light was coming from. Like it was in the light. "I guess X-files is a little too much like everyday life for you. expanding its awareness. the undertaker. you know? The guy from Quantum Leap. "Anyway." he announced." Rachel elaborated." "You just didn't strike me as a science-fiction person. "Don't tell me -. I can't say for certain. I didn't get that feeling of a presence at all with Malik. "I know what it is I'm just a little surprised you know about all that stuff." Craig was quick to jump in and cover the way Cat had butted Kelly out of the conversation. but Craig saw Cat shift uncomfortably nonetheless. that's all. "Star Trek." Cat offered. "No. Lord no. "I have cable. "'Leader'. The Borg. The thing that came for Cat. I like the leader in the other series." Craig grew conscious of his hand still resting on Kelly's. Rachel's words tumbled out in a fluster. no I like Star Trek: The Next Generation. Kirk didn't age well did he? Expanding 'frontier' and bad wig. like bacteria or cells. The people under its control. no one likes him as a captain it's too weird." Cat commented sourly. her face reddening. They all know that. One mind that can divide itself." Craig laughed. waiting for that creature to take me to 'it'. I don't spend all my time talking with those that have passed away you know! My TV time is my time. and it grew hot and clammy." Craig admitted.Chapter Thirty 192 'Even us' went unsaid. it is possibly controlling the undertaker-corpse. Like the Borg?" Rachel's knowledge of science-fiction threw Craig and he could see it had the same effect on Cat and Jason. they are just under its control." Cat scoffed. but it still seemed to jar Kelly. I er.

"Our body runs on pulses of energy in our nervous system. What do we know? We know we are dealing with something that isn't human. A few weeks later more children vanish and then strange deaths and now violent murders. "If it has some kind of connection with people's minds does that explain my nightmares? What are they about and how do they fit it?" Cat answered him." He turned back to Cat. Yes it's brilliant. 193 "First" Craig paused to address Jason. guilty as charged. abstract conversation aside. We both said that after our nightmares we felt physically weaker and I was thinking that it's drawing energy from us while we sleep so it can go off and do the things it is doing. Maybe 'it' can influence people's perception. "The building had been searched by the police a few times and nothing had been found. followed by a girl going missing.Chapter Thirty Craig laughed at his own transparency. "Okay.Marry me!" Kelly abruptly redirected the banter. It's killing and taking people. "Except for the caretaker. "Feeding off our biochemical energy?" Rachel elaborated. "I haven't seen Star Wars. "Maybe he can't be trusted -. "But I haven't had any nightmares. "What if it's only some of us then -. Or the tablets might stop you remembering any of the dreams. It made sense to Craig and it reassured him further because it was an explanation of why he found himself experiencing the nightmares from the attacker's perspective. This thing. "So it could be in the basement then. as if this things power or hold is growing." Craig reminded. conscious of the topic of Harry's death.you were suspicious that the door to the roof had been left unlocked when you chased Harry up there. it seems there is an escalation. You all tell me that this whole thing started with Albert Taylor going missing. "And second ." Cat looked at everyone to see if they accepted her idea." "I'm more of a Star Wars fan personally." Kelly countered. Kelly nodded in agreement and didn't seem fazed by the mention of Harry.I mean it could be the only place to hide." "At night." Cat Stated. "Okay." Craig suggested." ." Kelly countered. If it was down there then Alec would have surely seen something. A monster. Hardly anyone goes down there." Jason snappily suggested. with everyone asleep the high-rise flats would be like a battery pack. "Sorry." "It could be using the abandoned stairs to move about relatively unseen as we said. we are connected to it and maybe we see where that energy is being directed to." Craig clarified." Craig's thoughts rambled out of his head. they might stop it getting in your head. if it is an entity then it must be some kind of energy. "I kind of have an idea about that.or what if it's the sleeping tablets you use. When it draws energy from us. but I haven't. with us being the power cells. "Shut up! I'm only twenty-four but you're making me feel old! You've obviously had a deprived childhood." Cat concluded darkly. Is it any good?" Jason asked. "Maybe it's living in the basement -." Craig was surprised and reassured by Kelly's imaginative suggestion.

it's going to run out of people in that building eventually. "Why?" Kelly repeated with a shrug. blood." Jason stated. "You mean your precious police? The things that have been happening have made front page news in most of the nationals and the police haven't even found a walking-dead undertaker in the flats yet. "Probably much of the same. bodies. they were both fused to their frames." Jason added. "What will it do when it has a body then?" Craig didn't know if he was letting his imagination run away with him or if he had something. If it can control peoples perception how do we know its influence won't grow with it?" "We are possibly the only few people that have survived seeing what we have seen and actually dared to talk to each other about it." Craig was sure there was more to it." "That's horrible too. "So we have to be careful of confined spaces. so it could be the tablets stop it happening. bones.it hasn't got a main form yet. and doors between us and exits." Rachel reinforced." "That's horrible. Even I was sceptical to begin with." "I don't know. and it has taken losses for us to consider something supernatural. Rachel nodded in agreement. let alone believe it. it could spread out. "It also has the ability to change things -. but somewhere else. "It's gone to a lot of trouble to get into our heads. flesh.like the door in the Chambers flat." Cat answered swiftly. "It will be stopped though. It could be that it is creating itself bodies so it can move around." Cat raised her eyes incredulously. either way his ideas frightened him." "Go forth and multiply. "One of the runes I saw represented the Harvest." Kelly announced matter-of-factly. only to just eat us. Then the whole neighbourhood. . That might explain why Cat thinks we haven't seen the main creature yet -. I was thinking if this thing is an incorporeal entity contained in one space and its range of influence is limited." Cat answered Kelly. if it can divide itself up like we think. and the fire door when we left Cat's. "Why is it taking people. There are two more towers. "I think it's harvesting. it could be they were created from the raw materials it's harvesting." "I haven't slept properly since the twins went missing. "It might need people's flesh and minds the way we need food and water." "Harvesting what?" "People." Rachel stated quietly and sombrely." Kelly stated. then it wants to overcome that limitation. Too scared to sleep properly." Rachel reminded.someone will have to act. There will be many people who will be on their own with their experiences simply because they are too scared of ridicule or think they just won't be believed. "I mean the more it spreads the more people will believe or see it -.Chapter Thirty 194 "Well I haven't suffered the lethargy you and Cat say you have experienced after sleeping. You said earlier that the undertaker and the snatcher looked as though it had been pieced together. to experiment on us." Kelly considered strategically.

" Rachel declared resolutely. dangerous liquids. "Now she's going all Buffy." Cat grinned darkly. "If we aren't going to involve the authorities what other choice do we have?" "How can we? That thing is dangerous?" Jason despaired. Think of all the harmful things you're told not to play with. Craig puzzled at her before answering Jason." Kelly suggested. and by that time how many will have died?" Rachel said concerned." "Yes. "Then we have to act now. but he finished her quote in his head: "For tomorrow we die" ." "We need a plan then. "I have a feeling I can be dangerous too. "That is counting on some very important people staking their reputations on mobilising the army to combat a monster. Rachel returned to the group and delivered a large two-handed sword crashing onto the table. "Then we move against it. Craig was pretty convinced Kelly hadn't included Jason in the idea of striking back. "What with?" Jason insisted." Kelly concluded.Chapter Thirty "Or the army." Cat remarked caustically. Rachel got up from the table and disappeared out into the hallway and rummaged through a large ottoman. flammables and pointed things. "There's weapons all around us everyday. but the lad was only voicing what he and the others were probably thinking. Craig didn't doubt that at all. "Seize the day" Craig was emboldened by the strength of Rachel's conviction." 195 Craig winced at Kelly's persistence.

Rachel's room was like the rest of the flat. it had proved a . her seat parked on the pillow. and things were different between them now. Craig had shared Kelly's unease. aware that the strength of her argument had alienated her into a lonely no-man's land. had fuelled them and left them with a burden of responsibility and the sense that they were the only ones that would be prepared to do what needed to be done. and no one had been keen on the idea of going to bed. The door nudged open and Rachel stepped around it with two mugs held in front of her. Dressed in a fleecy dressing gown buttoned up to her neck. Cat was fully aware of her deference and had taken advantage of it. She could feel the physical and psychological exhaustion drawing on her weary body and mind. not antiques but pieces that were made about fifty of sixty years ago and required craftsmanship -. dated décor furnished with old furniture. It had been a harrowing day. In the orange gloom the little tasselled table lamp gave out from the bedside table she waited for Rachel to return. It reminded her of how her grandparent's house had looked. they had eventually settled on a plan. She peeled back her side of the quilted nylon bed cover as much as she could with Kelly sitting on it and got under the covers. and she found it impossible not to be the grounded rational voice in their brainstorming session. Kelly took the drink that was offered to her and Rachel rounded the bed and set her mug amongst the clutter on her bedside cabinet. a shadow or resignation in her grey eyes. Cat had refused to take up her old bedroom so Craig had taken it. Kelly was thankful to Rachel for suggesting playing poker. her knees hugged up to her chest. Rachel looked older than Kelly had thought she was.not a flat-pack in sight. Kelly tried to bolster Rachel as much as possible. Yet the knowledge that others were in danger and that the five of them alone had faced what others would consider fantasy or madness.Chapter Thirty 196 Chapter Thirty Six Kelly rested against the quilted headboard of Rachel's bed. Cat and Jason were going to share the sofa cushions laid out on the floor. The frustration and anger still knotted Kelly's insides. and with a floor length flannel night gown beneath. The option of doing nothing and waiting the storm out had seemed an easy and rational option considering they were seemingly safe and hidden from the reach of the tower and the threat of its stalkers. It had only been the middle of the evening when they had all finished discussing what they would do about the things at The Heights. "You turning in?" "In a bit. but lived in and not maintained for several decades. the wild ideas they had had and the dangerous plans they had made were enough to keep sleep at bay. Thanks for the drink. and the evening had presented its own difficulties through the five of them discussing. The others would be moving about the flat and turning in now too. but acting outside of the law and the possibility of endangering anyone but herself was uncomfortable. however despite the danger and the madness of it all. Kelly had wanted to join him but the idea frightened her. but had objected little to the risks of their ideas and seemed to be happy to go along with everything considered or decided. Especially when Cat had been irresponsibly supportive of Jason's wish. Kelly had been unsure of Rachel's thoughts and feelings because although Rachel had taken the initial lead her composure had gradually been eroded under the wear of Cat's arbitrary digs and attacks. and Craig's lack of standing and seeming unwillingness to rock the boat had left Kelly fighting alone. what they should do and who should do it. mostly arguing. Her natural authority had diminished and she had flinched warily each time Cat spoke. and she had grown quiet and distant. to be involved in their dangerous plans. a child's wish. which meant the cohesion of the group was left to a fraying Rachel." Kelly raised her mug to Rachel in a silent toast of thanks. She closed the door behind her by walking backwards and pressing herself against it. Rachel's protests were weak in her subdued state. Well-decorated and furnished. it was the kind of night you would only sleep if you were really tired.

then I'm there in that feeling. tomorrow was going to be terrifying and dangerous. she had allowed herself to trust. after the unusual things they had discussed and the outrageous things she had agreed to go along with that evening. She found herself hoping they would find something. I think that will have to be tonight's definition of 'okay'. When Cat wasn't being hostile he seemed to get on quite well with Cat." "Yes. and the way she had been back then. Cat did manage to get some snipes at Rachel. Cat and Craig were competitive with each other. and then making plans to destroy them. to desire again. Kelly no longer felt as connected to Rachel and Craig as she had before and she knew that feeling was a reaction to Cat's actions: Cat had made casual flirts with Craig but with her eyes on Kelly watching for a response. teasing each other with their tells whenever they thought the other was bluffing." She couldn't even bring herself to speak directly of what they planned. Kelly had less of a share of Craig now. she made jibes at the police that scored some brief laughs with Craig and Jason. attacked her reluctance at breaking the law by labelling her 'PC Goodie' and 'PC Jobsworth' and challenged her self-imposed authority during Rachel's impotency. he had stopped trying to reassure her while she eased herself into accepting the madness. It's just that even if there are things in the basement of that building we could get hurt. as if the game had conspired against them. and the hands they were dealt kept them out of the game with each other. Rachel turned away. backing off quietly and undoubtedly unnoticed." "What if we are making a huge mistake?" Kelly leaned her head back against the wall. "If okay is the numbed state that comes from learning that monsters are real. She had felt a little like an outsider. She had tried to join in with them on the game. teaching him the rules and joking with him as if they had been long-time friends and not the practical strangers they were. Resigning herself to all the doubts that lingered off-stage in her head. Even if she could compete she didn't how to. "It depends how you define 'okay'. Even the casual conversation about science fiction in the early evening had left Kelly out of her depth and seemingly cut off from Craig. Kelly knew she was pushing him away. but although she played well. it was Cat and Craig's banter that Kelly kept returning to. Monsters or no monsters. "Yes." Rachel wrinkled her nose up. her defences were back now and so strong it was hard to even talk to him. "Are you okay. She had become human again through Craig. but for the most part she shared her cards with Jason. because she stood a chance of getting arrested and losing her job going along with all that they had decided. reinforcing her awareness of their tenuous relationship and age difference.Chapter Thirty 197 good distraction and kept their interactions with each other focussed around the game. pursing her lips. Cat clearly felt threatened by Kelly and had systematically dealt with her. clearly intimidated by Cat. where she was in the turn sequence limited her interaction with Craig." Rachel admitted grimly. her and that time. . And if there isn't. dear?" Kelly rested her head on her knees and faced Rachel. and it scared her that she could feel that way again when she had put so much distance between him. quite. she had started a journey that she had thought she wouldn't or couldn't make again and now she had lost him to Cat. She was angry at herself for letting her defences down and being so pathetic when so much was at stake. her eyes averted to the floor. She didn't have the fight in her. Cat had entered their group like a brick through a window. "I'm sorry. Strangely. then someone could still end up getting hurt doing what we are going to do. when tonight of all nights Kelly needed to feel included. while the loser would demand another chance to win and get vengeance. I know I have said this several times tonight. one would lord it when they won. The way that insecurity felt was identical to the way it had felt when she had been married to Ian. Craig had retreated from playing an active role in the plans.

and I suspect the brandy had a little to play in this." "The openness and honesty sounds nice. dear. of course Rachel had heard what had been said about her. when I could pull off being in a forest in the middle of the night with nothing on but my knickers and goose-fat. it is. the living people that I am connecting them to often find it difficult to equate them with the one they lost. A lifestyle." Rachel lowered the mug into her lap and her voice softened. I have faith in the potential for goodness and greatness in all people. and some of them actually quite critical of people like myself.Chapter Thirty "Where did you get that sword from anyway?" Kelly changed tact to get away from the subject that would only distance her from Rachel and she didn't want that. the goose-fat was not as insulating as I was told. A humanist. I hope it's the real article and won't just break should I get to use it. Cat had made sure she did. Those spirits are released from their material and psychological trappings and are just themselves." "Quite possibly." "What do you believe in then?" "I guess that I believe in people. No one (including ourselves sometimes) truly knows the real us. I don't remember much of the affair as it was freezing in the woods. but I don't see how my ability particularly connects me with religion either. Spirits that are aware of their passing are often changed with the experience. with all its dictates and ceremony. That was back when I thought my talent was a way of life." If not a little frightening. it outlasted the marriage it was used within." "She's emotional. "You shouldn't put up with that. I went to a Pagan wedding once." Kelly raised her eyebrows. even if it does. Tears gathered in her eyes and her face took on an instant expression of guilt for her tone. is that why you let Cat say the things she does?" "Yes. especially how religion has so many different opinions on the afterlife. but I think it is what I see with my other vision that maintains my faith. 198 "Oh that!" Rachel took Kelly's lead appreciatively. . The sword was part of the ceremony I think. I don't know how. It was short-lived." Rachel snapped. I am a spiritual person." "She lost her mother. honest and open to those they have left behind. but somehow I ended up coming home with the thing." "Just because she's emotional it doesn't give her the right to attack you like that. and I had drunk lots of brandy to keep me warm. but she was trying to get to know herself again. my ability which is currently beyond scientific explanation makes it hard for me to reconcile myself with the cold logic of atheism. "Yes. "This faith you have in people. "Well. I would have thought your talent and spirituality would go hand in hand. "A day in my job might ruin that for you. Mind you. I have never felt too comfortable with religion. I wonder what happened to them?" "You don't see them anymore?" "No. Something us mortals hardly ever are." "Don't get me wrong. The only thing she had. It had been some time since Kelly had been honest with herself. a good thirty odd years ago now." "Did you hear what she" Kelly stopped herself." "I'm surprised.

it wasn't always like this. She's lost one person that cares for her." Kelly nodded. "She could be the key to stopping this. That's why I take it. She's an angry child. It can be very boring in hospital but we got on so well. Helen's father was estranged and her mother had died a few years before. You see although my delivery went well my baby didn't make it through its first night. She doesn't want me. just the three of us. Helen and I." Rachel waved the apology away. most definitely brought about by Cat's father ending their relationship as soon as she got pregnant. Her death didn't end that." "I'm not her mother. I was a little old to be having a baby and there was a worry of complications. She could laugh easy and hard but she had a touching maturity. Until her mother died it was nothing like this. I won't let her lose another one." Rachel fixed Kelly in a long stare. So I stood by Helen for the birth and pretty much in raising Cat too. that sounds too distant. so I had been sent to hospital a week prior to my due date." Rachel took a deep breath. After what she came out with I don't know why you bother." Kelly nodded and waited to see if Rachel would talk about how Kelly had ended up on the floor. Truth is he did a bunk as soon as Helen started to show signs of being pregnant. "I loved her mother. I was a family friend. for monitoring due to complications. No. I find it frightening." she hastened to correct herself: "I love her mother so much. Helen was on the ward early too. I had a little girl. It didn't look like she would. Didn't want the commitment. "I just hope she isn't a complete bitch until I drop dead. Just as long as you are okay. "The way she retaliated. "How did you two ever end up with the relationship you have?" "Oh." "I'm sorry I hit Cat. That's one thing I have learnt talking to my 'friends'. I have to be here if she needs me." It sounded like a confession to herself as much as an explanation. they always have regrets when they pass. wiped her tears away and faced Kelly with a renewed strength of resolve. We were in beds next to each other. a good friend of Catherine's mother and like an unofficial aunt to Catherine. "As frightening as that may be." Kelly felt a pull of shame in her stomach and looked away into the shadows of the room. Might have done her some good." "We met in hospital in the maternity ward. I can honestly saw there wasn't a dull moment while I was in her company.Chapter Thirty Kelly gave her time to collect her emotions." Rachel agreed after some time. I went into labour two days before Helen. "I bother because I believe there is some good in ninety-nine percent of all people." Rachel looked lost in fond memory." 199 "I bother. "Just something I could only ever think of doing. Rachel chuckled to herself. We were always doing things together. An otherworldly power against an otherworldly threat. "She has you." "Don't worry. "I have wanted to reach her on some level for eighteen months now. I won't let her drive me away. Cat is of the understanding that they fell out while she was still a baby. He decided he didn't want the responsibility of fatherhood. angry at losing her mother. She was alone." "Perhaps you should leave her to it." Rachel sensed Kelly's well of sympathy and waved her down before she could talk or attempt to offer .

Helen asked what I had called my baby -. It's just spite and resentment at what you and Helen had. She had a girl. Adoption wouldn't have been enough for him.and she asked if she could use the name so that I would know there was still a little Catherine out there that owed something to me. "I did love her though -.Helen that is. It seemed important to me somehow." she stated dismissively." Rachel finally broke eye-contact. I don't know what that makes me." "My partner left a little while after we found it would be too dangerous for me to attempt to bear children. 200 "I was there for Helen when it was her big day.Chapter Thirty comfort. and I had Cat and they filled the gap left by my Catherine and my partner." This time Kelly didn't let Rachel wave her comforting away and she put an arm around her and pulled her close and let her cry her wracking sobs against her chest. He desperately wanted something I couldn't give him. I had Helen." "I understand why you keep trying to reach her. It was painful but I let him go." Rachel fixed Kelly with a look of desperation. Cruel words for something beautiful. And what Cat said and the way she said it doesn't describe the love you felt for Helen. "Not everything needs to be labelled. "Perhaps it's as Cat says. Helen and I stayed friends until cancer took her from us nearly two years ago. .

" "Shall we go?" She started to walk around to the driver's side. "Still hurting?" Kelly's tone was cold and flat. The gas cylinders had been dumped there but the Council had yet to do anything with them. so I can't imagine she would let anything happen to him. she let out a sigh." "Let's just get this done shall we. her tone of voice incredulous. thanks. "I don't think she can take anymore Cap'n. but Kelly had been in this frame of mood since last night. Wherever they are." Her tone implied it should have been obvious. "What's up?" She stopped in front of the car. "I'm okay." Craig announced in a bad impression of Scotty from Star Trek. Kelly had suggested they procure them." "Not as much risk as he will be in later. but you standing there like a meerkat peering over the only cover we have is only going to draw attention to us." He limped after her back to the cylinders and they repeated their chore until they got all four in the car and strapped on top. Cat seemed to get on really well with him last night." "You're not worried about her?" Kelly threw her hands in the air." "No we don't. Kelly had told him there had been houses there that had been pulled down for a new development but it had fallen through and nothing had been done with it.Chapter Thirty 201 Chapter Thirty Seven Craig glanced furtively over the bushes while Kelly crouched by a pile of gas cylinders waiting for his help in lifting one. It was a worry. He leaned against the side of the small car and flexed his foot at the ankle and winced as he set it back on the ground. When they had woken up that morning they had found that Jason and Cat were gone. "Me too. . but he ignored her. "I find it weird that Cat causes so much trouble for us and you and Rachel won't even consider that Jason might be at risk being with Cat." she huffed with little tolerance." He dropped to his haunches and took hold of the cylinder and they hauled it over to the car. you are willing to acknowledge that now?" Her voice was thick with sarcasm. "I am worried about Jason. "Come on." "Oh. "We don't want to get caught. so it had become over-grown and collected derelicts and fly-tipped waste. She agreed. but didn't laugh which left him feeling like a prick. "Considering we are strapping gas cylinders to a Yugo I didn't think we were worrying about being conspicuous. The denuded land was between a row of shops that were heavily armoured with metal security grills and a playground surrounded by a pen of chain-link fencing.

Especially at times like this. She folded her arms and cocked her head to one side. and leaned her weight onto one leg. but we go ahead as planned. Plus she's pretty much been a bitch since we met her so she wasn't making the best job of getting in with us. Maybe Jason was scared and Cat took him out to comfort him." "What if they were both taken?" "By the thing? We all agreed it was possible. "It's possible. I think they just went out. Kelly. "Just save all that defensiveness up for when Cat comes back or we get down in that basement. I guess. I don't know.Chapter Thirty "I agreed with your concern." Craig decided that Kelly was hard to get close to. I'm sorry. He wondered if that meant anything to her. Just got to give it a few minutes and she usually starts up okay. He had been more open and intimate than he had been with anyone for a long time. I took part." "You are right." She looked away and down. He didn't want to fall out with anyone. I was trying to comfort Jason. We got attacked by that thing. If anything he thought they would be even closer today. They both climbed into the car. No." "I just don't trust Cat. I can't imagine that Jason is all that important to the thing in the basement either. "A lot happened last night. He would have thought their friendship. would have stood up against last night. so I can't believe they won't be coming back to do their part. "It does this now and again. yeah I didn't take a lead but I didn't really know what to say or do during a lot of that but I contributed." He offered her an awkward smile and got one back in return. Everyone needs to blow off a bit of steam. The engine professed and turned over wheezily as Kelly turned the key in the ignition. then there was all that arguing between Cat and Rachel. but if it could take them it would have probably taken all of us. But we had to fight pretty hard to get her out of that building last night so I can't imagine that was all a stunt for us to take Cat in. "I know I'm sorry." Kelly ." 202 Craig held his hands up. and some of his anger bled into his voice. You're right. Meant as much as it now did to him. but they both took part in figuring out what we are doing today. "Is that why you have been so short with me since last night?" "I'm sorry. Despite what they had been going through they had had some nice times chatting together." He kept his tone steady despite the anger that swelled in his chest. "If they don't come back?" "I think we need Cat. and now he has gone missing with Cat." He shrugged. There are plenty of other victims left for it to take. yeah. especially Kelly and especially on a day like today." She squeezed her hands into the pockets of her tight jeans. which although was very new. "It didn't feel like it last night." He kicked a chunk of rubble into the thick weeds that sprung up all over the site. We don't know why they have both gone missing." "It would have only taken them to leave a note to stop us worrying. although it bothered him more than a shrug could express. What if she is under the things influence like Harry or Malik?" Craig nodded." Kelly shook her head disapprovingly. "That's ok. "Jason says he was being stalked by that thing.

Put it back. no love life and a half-arsed attempt to go it alone." "It's okay. All I have is a rented flat I can barely afford. feeling instant relief. He flinched at her hand suddenly being on his leg and she took the gesture back. "Before this the most I was ever scared was when my marriage broke down with Ian." "I'm the other way round." He knew it was a stupid thing to say." She looked at him blankly. It's about all I can manage -." Craig provided his own unsatisfying platitude. "Anything you wish you could change?" "Renting a flat in The Heights. "I think my friend Vicki is dead." "It certainly puts things in perspective. "Lets hope we don't have to make a horror-film-exit by car at The Heights." Craig found himself saying. A light drizzle of rain spotted the windows and pattered sparsely on the roof of the car as they sat quietly. "What makes you say that?" Craig explained the photograph and that Vicki hadn't answered her phone or responded to his texts. He remembered a drunken Sunday afternoon at his flat with Vicki when she had spotted a rainbow over the city. after Ian I have just focussed on me. and the consequences of that: that's real fear. facing this all that feels so stupid!" She slammed her palms against the steering wheel. Maybe I'm thinking the worst. "Sorry. I thought that was it for me. and what life would be like without it." "Don't start mocking the car again. but she did it and the connection felt good. losing someone's love. I love angry women. "I will admit I'm scared if you do too." She smiled back at him. For a few . debts I keep moving around but never reduce. Kelly was quiet for some time. She had belched loudly instead sending them both into giggles. 203 "I bet I know how you are feeling at the moment. "I wish I had achieved something." The grey cloud was passing over and returning the blue sky to them. I wasn't expecting it. I was frightened of losing him. barely enough to form a running rivulet. "She hasn't even showed up at the office. absolutely terrified of losing what we had. Not much of a life. like getting a splinter out after a good few days digging at it." They both laughed. "I wish I could go back and tell myself to lighten up and not see the end of a relationship as the end of the world.Chapter Thirty let the keys hang and rested her head on her side window. and she had dragged him off of the sofa to watch it. there would be a rainbow somewhere." Craig admitted." She turned back to the window and stared at a fleck of rain." Craig briefly held his hands up and widened his eyes in mock fright.and just lately I have come to realise I haven't done a very good job of that. and blushed and he knew he had the old Kelly back again. "God. Now. He had thought they might kiss that day. No one has seen her since she came to see me yesterday. Doing what we are going to do today." "I don't know what to say. I thought life was over for me.

When there was only blue sky she reached for the keys and the engine came to life as her hand left his leg. deliberately not looking at each other and stared out of the windscreen watching the grey cloud scroll away. .Chapter Thirty 204 moments they sat together.

She could just about remember the times when she had been a kid and had talked to people that were not there. a night that only seemed like yesterday but incredibly was three weeks ago. the walls in the corridors. things that invaded the body and influenced the mind using chemicals. She had thought it was her experience before her coma and the stories that Rachel and the others had related to her that coloured her perception. radiating out and rushing back in on themselves. Rachel had picked up on it straight away and encouraged her. the intangible part of herself. just she could see and hear things that others couldn't or maybe didn't want to see.Chapter Thirty 205 Chapter Thirty Eight Cat stood in the street and stared up at the three high-rise towers. Calming and relaxing. as if in shadow. As her fear subsided a little. but Cat knew it had worried her so Cat ignored the dead. for she knew she would see that same dark energy flowing through her too. The power recoiled then strained in her head at the very idea. Those experiences were so long ago she almost doubted them. Whatever it was it was in her mind. causing a dull ache behind her eyes. Changed somehow. making snails go up high where they would be prone to being eaten by birds. In Parasites Attack or whatever it had been called. Since she had been awakened from her coma she was different. That strange alien presence brooding in her head clung to her rising anger and fear. riding it. Other than the boarded up shops at the base of her building all three towers were physically identical. but it wasn't. She couldn't remember feeling any different. just so the parasite could spread. this was the psychological version. She had noticed the difference when she first returned to her flat. It wasn't physical. It stayed. to spend its strength. she couldn't see the difference she could sense it. Her mum would never have said how she felt. she corrected herself. urging her to release it. Now her mind was awakened to another level of consciousness. The source was below the ground in the basement. passed through the lobby and headed down the stairs to the sepulchral basement. The thing in the tower that had come to her that stormy night. the thing in her mind settled too. and on her floor during Rachel's visit last night. It was as if the power had a separate intelligence that worked against her. Cat looked over the large metal door to the basement. then on Harry before he had died. begging to be remembered. Was she going to get eaten? The thing in her head seemed to swell with her fear and she focussed on her breathing. She pushed at it but it refused to move. No. stairwells and even her own home were tainted. the narrator had explained how the parasite influenced the host to do things that put them in danger. It scared her. she didn't have any scars on her scalp. It was different now. It was darker. ready to pounce. but it didn't go. although through her eyes she could see that her building was different. had left something of itself within her head. it wasn't in her brain. It was like a twisted twin tower had taken its place. like bugs in fast flowing slime or spiders scurrying in shadows. Cat knew the difference between imagination and the supernatural. It seemed the dead soon get tired of not being listened to because she couldn't remember seeing or hearing anything after the age of about eight or nine. It enabled her to see that the building had cancer in its fabric. urging her to use its power to rip the obstructing door from the wall as she had when she had reduced the fire door to kindling the previous night. She couldn't put this off any longer. She had sensed it converge on Malik at the hospital. but she couldn't risk wasting her only weapon. but she had seen the look on her mum's face. Her destination. She daren't look at herself. She had seen a documentary on parasites on the Discovery Channel. her sense was like x-ray and she could see that the walls and the floors were all run through with malignant shadowy veins that crawled with blackness. She crossed the road. The way she had dealt with the panic attacks after mum had died and she had moved out of Rachel's. She was unsure if any use of it would deplete it and she planned to use her power to destroy the evil within the flats. leaving her . In and out.

desperate for a switch that would banish the dark. the high back chair upholstered in a dusty-pink leatherette. only last night it had chased her anger and struck Kelly down. calming herself and bracing her concentration against the force in her head as if denying the discomfort of a migraine. She fought and kept her mind contracted against the raw. squirming presence. but if the group's guesses were right there was another way into the basement. The small window in the door before her was a vacant void of black. In the barely definable light she could see dust and scraps of litter and what looked like a battered fire extinguisher congealed in slime. the warmth of her body. Each image not only built a picture of the room. Cat's eyes acclimated to the glare of her new environment. Hell was quieter and colder than she had imagined. while her mind was poised. She fumbled for a light switch as the quicksand darkness swamped around her. The door was a heavy fire door but it opened easily. If she held a splinter of the entity. Her fingers fumbled. How much of that action had been her will and how much of it had been the will of the thing in her head? Just how much control did she have over this? No matter. It opened freely. The landing beyond was dark and cool. that's it. then would part of this power be enough against the whole? The lights snapped on and exposed the crisp white hospital room around her. Doubts soaked into her from the dark. Bitterness at being made to 'belong' festered within her. wordlessly sharing the view of her mother. 206 She clenched her eyes and took a deep breath. fuelling her resolve. The hospital bed that held her mum. it was the fear and grief that helped her recognise the moment.Chapter Thirty defenceless before the 'thing' in the basement she planned to face. The charcoal gloom forced her to take careful steps and feel her way along the smooth cold handrail until the stairs finished and she had descended as far as she could. the scuffs on the floor. as if it was a totem of faith that could ward off whatever might be lingering in the dark that surrounded her. even her scent was familiar and welcome. but shaped her thoughts and emotions even though she felt like an ill-fitting jigsaw puzzle piece that couldn't be placed. and the memory of it spread from her psyche into her body and . Her courage retreated from the dark and hid behind the tense concentration of her mind and the force it held back. She peered through. The gesture and the feel of Rachel's clothes. The aggressive determination that she had brought to the basement seemed alien now she stood in the brightly lit private ward. she dismissed. Cat mounted the stairs with a determined pace and crossed the lobby to the unused staircase marked with a strict sign ruling that the door be kept locked. Cat remembered the tiredness of that day. and although she recognised the room. She was not going to be able to open the door. Was this proof that the portal of light led somewhere down here? Strangely Cat didn't need a discarded extinguisher to tell her this was where it was: She knew. This was a time when she would have readily accepted Rachel and her embrace. when it had retreated and receded into the light the extinguisher Kelly had used for a club had gone with it. Kelly had fought off the thing that had attempted to snatch Cat at the foot of the stairs. It squirmed and became still. She blinked rapidly as she adjusted to the light and received snippets of information from her surroundings. Shafts of hazy dust-filled light cut through the air above her from the out of view windows on the landings above. Cat slipped inside. They stood together for sometime. She allowed herself to look upon the final image that would complete the room. battered Venetian blinds against the windows. ready to relinquish her control of the power in her mind. The fear-stoked anger and determination that had fuelled her into the basement subsided within the seductive comfort. drooping daffodils in the vase. There was so much she didn't know and couldn't hope to understand about the thing in her head. Behave yourself. She had to face the evil that had turned her life upside down and forced her into a group she wanted no part of. She opened her eyes and smiled to herself. Rachel pulled Cat close to her.

she needs rest. The hatred for Rachel had been instantaneous but she hadn't fathomed why until many months later." Her mother had been alive. Please. It was now late. "Cat. The grief and anger she had hidden from had possessed her so completely and with such strength and suddenness it had frightened her. she let the adult take over. She's weak." The muscles in Rachel's face twitched and flickered with the confused thoughts that must have been playing through her mind. Although Cat knew it was coming. "I will stay with her. There was a row of seats in the corridor which both Rachel and herself had taken turns in using as a bed. Rachel was gone and now Cat would be the one to say goodbye. Cat wrenched free of Rachel's arm that once again shepherded her towards the seats and the sleep that she had taken eighteen months ago. she remembered hearing a terrible shrieking and finding it was her own hysteria. Cat had left college with Rachel and they had watched over her in turns. That's where Cat had retreated to. gave Rachel responsibility of the vigil." Rachel hugged Cat but the embrace stiffened when Cat just stood in her arms and made no effort to return the gesture. The desperate agonising sorrow and twisted anger frightened her. These would be her mum's last moments and she would no longer have to rely on Rachel's description of them. I'm not going far. and stood defensively between Rachel and her mother. Not this time. She had spent all that time being strong for her mum to make it easier for her. "Come on. She emitted several sounds before forming hesitant words. I won't be long. she was still startled by the weak gravelly rattle that wheezed weakly from her mother. The script of the past was discarded and the memories stopped here." This was all new." Rachel's tone was light but there was a sense of urgency about her. You need to rest too. Rachel waked backwards to the door. but there was nothing they could do but wait. each protracted sigh was the cocking of the gun and the snap of its trigger in the Russian roulette guessing game of which breath would be her last. She wouldn't let Rachel take away her last moments with her mother. Just down the hall. please get me if Please call for me. I will bring it straight back. The months of waiting had left her emotionally numb and physically broken." Rachel had found Cat at college that morning before her first class had even started and told her that the hospital had called and they expected it to be today. "I want to say goodbye. Each barely discernible breath that her mother took. She could feel the despair ball in her stomach like a smooth hard boulder in her gut that weighted her insides down to ripping . Rachel's grip on her shoulder tightened. Eighteen months ago Cat had allowed herself to be shepherded to the door. Cat had changed how things had happened. She had even managed to sleep. "Of course. She had known what the change of breathing meant and she had been grateful for Rachel sparing her from it. "She's gone." Cat stepped away from Rachel. you need to rest or you will be asleep on your feet. I want to be with her. Come and get me if" She hesitated in the doorway. "I'm going to get a coffee and stretch my legs. the early hours of the next day. Rachel must have sensed her wilt within the embrace. then dead and Cat had been spared the pain of what had happened in between. Rachel had stroked her hair then whispered. Cat should be the one to say the final goodbye. She must have slept deeply because when she awoke she had found that her head was on Rachel's lap and she didn't remember her joining her on the seats. Cat being desperate for it not to happen on her vigil. looking reluctant to leave. and now the journey was almost over she could feel her defences against the grief falling.Chapter Thirty 207 bones. "I know! I will get you a hot chocolate while I get a coffee.

She found her mothers hand in the bed covers." "I don't want anyone else. taken her to school." her words seemed strangely surreal. it was joined by another and another until she realised she was crying. It was true. 'Sleep?' She laughed bitterly at her romantic sentimentalism -. Until the sobs wracked her body it seemed her grief was just a torture of the flesh with the cramps. Rachel had always been there for her. as if there was a conspiratorial motive . but as she approached the bed to watch her mum die she knew her the pain would come. laughed with her. it felt like a bundle of sticks. her hair dry and pale like sun scorched grass. killing her quicker than the Cancer. She was right. This was the first time she had cried so wildly in front of her mother since her mother had asked her to be strong for her. hacking the seconds away.Chapter Thirty 208 point. The cancer had eaten her away." her voice flashed into a stunted giggle that her body couldn't maintain. This was it. her cheeks shallow and her eyes sunken." Cat's mother whispered." Her weakened state reduced her conviction to a fragile plea. She could barely whisper now. She probably had minutes at that.." Her mother turned away from her. Her face had changed so much from what she had known before." There was the tiniest pressure on her hand and her mothers deep eyes flickered open. She surrendered now. 3. It was the morphine. they had been increasing it.my head feels empty. I want you. All Rachel had in the world was Helen and Cat. Her mother was dying and there was nothing she could do. made her packed lunch. "Rachel is going to be here for you. Now it would be different. "You have always been here for me. taken her to the park. spasms and seizures that took hold of her body. She touched her face and was shocked by the stiff and contorted mask that creased up around her tears. "Oh. streaming down her face. She didn't care. but she felt that death would still be punctual and be the constant that endured in this alternate experience. She was unrecognisable as the woman that had played with her..Not sleep. she hadn't been there. "Don't." "Don't. She experienced a sickening plunge of guilt at the thought of taking Rachel away from her mother's side. It had always been her mother and Rachel for as long as she could remember." She managed over the tightness of her throat. sent her to her room. You know you're the daughter she never had." she breathed weakly. She knew things were different this time. "Kitten -. The drug would be poisoning her by now. sung to her. it had been like having a second mum in replacement for the dad she had never known. Something wet touched her hand and when she held her hand up she found a clear rivulet. The clock ticked. and she had lived with guilt and torment ever since. "I'm so sorry I'm not going to be here I don't want to leave you." Cat stood over her mother and watched the gentle rise and fall of her chest. Death! "You shouldn't be here." A tear tobogganed down the crease of her cheek and caught like a crystal in the hairline at the side of her face. Sucking her into a painless sleep. and all Cat ever had was her mum and Rachel. She would have closure and Rachel would be the one to miss saying goodbye. "Mum.40 am had been the time.you couldn't want for anyone else. "I want to be here for you." The tears came hard and fast. she cares so much." she managed to croak. "Let her be your mother. mum. "Mum. "Get her and then come to me. "Do you want me to get Rachel?" It had to be close now. "I didn't have to ask her to be there for you. She had loved to sing. told her off. She has so much love for me and you -." Cat pleaded softly. It came so naturally to her to be there for you when I couldn't.

The underlying menace that writhed in her gut was out of place. Cat slowed her pace and twisted her wrist from Jason's grip. They could share this. its black strands expanding until the white hospital room and Rachel and her mother were replaced with blackness. Her eyes adjusted to the gloom in time to see the undertaker folding into the shadows under a blow to its chest from the extinguisher that Jason had swung into its chest. as if her head was firing false signals to all her senses. crudely angular like an obelisk. . Jason tugged at her. The breath was forced from her as Cat was yanked roughly backwards. it was difficult to gauge the scale in the gloom. but it looked at least three feet taller than her. expecting another attack. Jason had returned for her and was determined to escape with her. All she had to do was lower her defences. fears. She had played this fantasy of events in her head a dozen times every day since her mother died. Smother pain with comfort. The white of the hospital room shattered with the impact of the extinguisher as if the room was a reflection on a mirror fracturing into a spider web of darkness. She had seen enough. The thing that lived in the fabric of the dark knew her hidden desires. douse grief with love. A fire extinguisher ripped through the air before Cat and struck Rachel full in the chest. The extinguisher clattered to the floor and Jason snatched Cat's hand and tugged it roughly. She took some staggered steps with Jason before she understood that 'it' had gotten into her head. In the direction the undertaker had been luring her there was a broad circular patch of darkness infused with a faint shade of green. waiting -. Her head raced with confused thoughts. wishes. and had used them against her. with a frame of gnarled bone under a stretched covering of fleshy translucent skin. The obelisk. Rachel moved to the bedside and her warm smile disarmed her. She was drunk from the vision of her mother and Rachel. Rachel appeared in the doorway. She saw it. She wanted nothing more than to say goodbye. and most crippling memories. yet the fighter inside her needed to see it. and living the memory of a time when it was easy to love Rachel. to see what 'it' truly was. to finally see the true face of the enemy that toyed with them and tormented them from beyond the veil. face her mother's death with Rachel and let the transition of losing one mother and gaining another be seamless. She realised it was a hole in the wall and leaned into the void looking for the source of the light. his face desperate and full of fear.but why would Cat think of escape? Why should she? Cat wanted this moment with her mother. The realisation stunned her and she relaxed into Jason's persistent direction. 209 Cat frowned at her own sudden inappropriate suspicion and dismissed her paranoia. As she tumbled through the dark a gradient in the colour of the shadows became apparent. Cat couldn't hate her anymore. Startled and confused Cat held her ground. sentinel.Chapter Thirty beyond wanting to say goodbye. Rachel seemed to fill the door. Let go and move on.waiting or guarding? Guarding what? The insecurity clambered heavily up her body like some zombie from the earth. she searched the patch of shadow where the undertaker had toppled but couldn't see any sign of movement. wincing in the undertaker's direction. The encounter Jason had saved her from had shaken her determination to face the thing alone. She saw Rachel's open hand reaching out for her. She could take it. The diffusion emanated from a luminescent green mass. blocking her exit -. She ran toward the pool of green that seemed to hover unanchored in the dark. The association of that colour with the thing that stalked them lashed her into matching Jason's deliberate pace. Cat found herself surrounded by disorientating darkness. leading her to betray herself to it. pulling her away. despite its crude architectural shape was strangely organic.

Her hesitation at the lockers had cost Cat her escape. stopped to pull the door open and take their turn to dash through it. and flickering and writhing from place to place from an oscillating light. radiating invisibly out from her as a shockwave. I'm mad. for the thing that altered her. eager and wide. She was on the threshold of retreat but her hate of this thing fortified her resolve into belligerent defiance of the thing that had infected her mind. Leaving its chrysalis and incubating form. "Yeah. "Don't worry. Jason pulled the door open and with euphoric disbelief they both made it through. the things would be on them. then lurched towards her in lunging strides. Aren't you?" she joked as she tried to compose herself. Cursing the thing and her fear. She wouldn't make it through the door. Jason sat in the grass with her. In her half-turn she saw that the hole in the wall had become a caldera of fierce green light split by the jagged blade of the undertaker's silhouette rising from the ground. used her mother! For the thing that would kill them. He struggled to breath and talk. and if Jason wouldn't let her go then it would undoubtedly cost him his too. imprisoned her in a coma. but her impotence collapsed under the weight of a desperate anger and hatred within her skull for the thing that would claim them at any moment. the entity boiled out of the hole with a rush of pungent air. That was until suddenly she could see the floor in detail as it was lit by a surge of green light that sent shadows scurrying into hiding amongst the recesses. tormented her. yet the seamless way it had put her in a fantasy world frightened her. The shadowy gloom was dispersed by the green light pouring itself through the gap in the lockers. She cursed herself for her recklessness and at the futility of their escape attempt. 210 Her mind strained to extract more details from what she had glimpsed but she hadn't lingered long enough and her concentration was dominated by navigating the uneven floor of broken masonry. Shaking and panting heavily she thanked him. Poised mid-motion Cat hesitated between the lockers that narrowed the doorway. taking the form of a symmetrical Rorschach of perpetually moving swirls and eddies of power. The mental sphincter around the thing in her head relaxed. Her longing to make a stand against this thing ached in her chest. and toyed with her most painful memories. With shock!" She let go of him and dropped to her knees while she tried to regain her breath. Its shape was blunted as it repositioned its tall flat-topped hat. as much for relief and comfort as for thanking him. a splinter of the green energy that controlled the undertaker filtered from its eyes and ragged mouth like a possessed Jack-o'-lantern. I saw you sneak out this morning. Follow me?" She panted. "Did you. "You're a little.Chapter Thirty Some-thing unrecognisable incubated within. The undertaker drew its blade while the light blazed around the marionette corpse in a threatening irreverent aureole as the entity in both its forms closed in. The light drove the pair to a narrow gap that Jason darted through while Cat staggered to sidestep through. imprisoned her. but it didn't take much of a calculation for her to realise that by the time they reached it. and she could hear the undertaker's even steps at their backs as it stalked after them. urging its undead stalker in for the kill. She read his baffled expression at her Star Wars quote and she waved it away. and the power within exploded out of her in a volcanic release of rage. she complied with Jason's desperate tugs and they raced across the residential basement of The Heights. Short for a. Stormtrooper. In her haste to escape she shook off the brief wild stab of pain in her head. So I gave you a head start and . She pulled Jason to her. Cat and Jason didn't stop running until they reached the sanctuary of the small grassy common in the middle of the three high-rise towers and the seeming safety of daylight life. The fire door was dead ahead.

" The disappointment in herself swamped her." Cat nodded." "And now?" "I trust you." There was conviction in his voice. usually when her thoughts strayed to Rachel. "I'm sorry." She pushed him away and he fell onto his rear and didn't return to his attack. How much would she have to let go to release enough power to kill the thing." "Why?" 211 He frowned and angrily shoved her shoulders. it didn't seem like you had much control and you looked just as frightened of your powers as everyone else was. but the aching discomfort was still there. you don't understand." "I had to know. She had only let go of the power for an instant. but his smile faltered and his face adopted a worried expression. It's hard to trust something. It was a feeling she had felt often since her mum had died. she had only met him yesterday but it was the second time she found herself questioning whether he was a very small adult or an adult in disguise as a kid. Following his stare at her face. and that had only stalled the things in the basement. or whether you were reporting to it or something. There was a warm wet slick under her nose and she found her fingers were wet with bright crimson blood. "But I still don't think you know whether to trust yourself or the power you have. and what would be left of her afterwards? .Chapter Thirty followed you. "Either way you took a big risk in following me down there." She shoved him in the chest this time. She remembered the pain in her head after releasing the thing in her mind. or someone. I saw your face at the hospital when you used your powers on Malik and again at Rachel's last night when you turned them on Kelly. but I think we need you the most. what it is that you can do. the adrenaline of her escape had masked it. yet it had done this to her. "How come you didn't stop me from going down into the basement?" "I thought it was a stupid thing to do." Jason looked up into her face questioningly. "I told you I need all of your help. her fingers felt for the focus of his concern. but I didn't know whether you were going down there to try and kill it by yourself. I wasn't going to let you walk out on us. "You thought I might be in with that thing?" "You don't even understand what it did to you.

" She liked him. "Girls drink too much these days. and only talk when something came to him. He always seemed to accept her the way she was. "I expect you are right. tracing the prominent veins that clung to the bones beneath his paper thin skin with a quivering finger. are we friends? Are we courting? No No I am married. whether she cursed. She laughed. "You guessed it. Old and married. I am old." He watched her light up. what would you like to do. or when he slipped into confusion. And you're my nurse." he observed. and didn't treat her like a Red Coat that should be entertaining him every second of their little jaunts. "I think Eadie had a hang over the other morning. she might be worlds apart from girls he might have known when he was her age." He started. He studied his hands. "I don't know." "Hung-over?" he scoffed. That wasn't to say that she didn't make the effort. That's what a lot of parents round here have been asking themselves lately. "Probably got bored with the common and they are off playing somewhere else. she was meant to take him out and give him a good time. "Where would you like to go? What would you like to do?" "I am sorry. lit up a fag or talked about a mental night out. She fished her packet of cigarettes out of her bag and walked in front of him to talk with him." She patted him affectionately on the shoulder of his tweed jacket with her spare hand. He was polite. Grandparents she didn't bother with anymore." She stopped the wheelchair and pushed the breaks on. "I woke up the other morning and I couldn't remember my own name -." "Where are all the children?" Any other time it might have been just a random statement from a misconnection in his disorganized brain. and seemed to suddenly become conscious of being in the wheelchair. but his observation was chillingly appropriate. He was often quite content to watch the world go by from a café." Probably playing somewhere safer than the shadow of a building where kids go missing.Chapter Thirty 212 Chapter Thirty Nine Zoe Sampson wheeled the elderly Peter Sinclair down the ramp from the high rise in his wheel chair. "Yup. Everyone does too much of everything these days. but he didn't criticize. where would you like to go." . Mr Sinclair. "Where do you want to go today?" "Go?" Peter had moments of vagueness because of his dementia. there was no nod of disgrace or tut of disapproval which she would have gotten from her grandparents.I think you just recovered quicker than I did. "No." "Come on then." She frowned at the drama of what she said. What's my name?" "Zoe. not depress the poor bastard." "Ooh! Showing off now today. "Yes.

Shame it was so painful for the relative when the person became lost in their time travels within their own lives. She would swap shifts with someone before she had to deal with him losing his way. She wondered whether she would be knocking back vodka shots when her tits dropped (even the pierced one) and her face shrivelled. They had their fans.Chapter Thirty Her eyes widened. She could imagine herself up the oversixties club smoking a joint with her blue rinse and playing poker with the girls. cautiously asking what she had been up to. "So you up for the market?" "Yes that sounds nice. She patted her dress back into place against her body. The caretaker was ahead of them to the side of the path tending to a large sit down mower. "Your parents must worry. Except most of her mates would probably be like the Sinclair's. "Don't tell my mum. "What did you just say?" "I am not sure" He stared through her with his jaw trembling." In dementia the ability of the brain amazed her with how it could rewrite time and transport its owner to different places and the different phases or stages of development of who they were. Besides. I just didn't know you had it in you either." Zoe giggled.and in that moment she realized she was getting attached to the old bugger." Everyone had thoughts they wouldn't want broadcasted. My wife. but not really wanting the worry of knowing. She was grateful for that -. She walked him forwards along the path. "What have you been up to then?" Mr Sinclair called over his shoulder. She laughed to herself. "No! Mrs Sinclair?" In her exclamation she missed her mouth and her cigarette fell. With her chin on her collar bone she looked down her front and brushed the grey ash marks from her chest. He broke into a wheezing Muttley guffaw." He was back with her." "Your mum? I think it's your wife you need to worry about." "You have perfect breasts. It bounced off her Nurses dress in an angry display of orange embers before it hit the floor. "Yes. she wouldn't embarrass him by dwelling on them." He went quiet and still. "She is fine." She blurted a laugh. but mum rang regularly. and you don't need to worry about anything. her breasts were perfect." "Yes Yes. "Right." 213 "I didn't know she had it in her. Zoe. he looked her in the eye vacantly. at home with each other. asking when her next visit would be. "She made a sherry trifle and then we had a few glasses when dinner was finished. . Mr Sinclair wasn't lost yet though. Shall we go through the market and walk along the canal for a bit? We can double back and grab something to eat in the market. while she would be living on her own with her vibrating friend in one bedside drawer for the lonely nights and a stash of Viagra in another drawer for when she got lucky. "Don't all parents?" Dad didn't say much." She glanced up before getting back to her clean up. "Why do I need to worry about my wife? Is she okay?" She squeezed his shoulder on her way back round behind his chair.

They had woken up together enough times to be at ease with sharing the morning after and not making any plans to see each other. the smell of petrol. "Maybe I am happy being single. "No I am not!" He laughed with her. Not at all.someone will snap you up. she knew him. its good that you get to let your hair down and relax." "You have an emotionally demanding job. and decided against striking the flint of her lighter. putting her off loitering and lighting up so close to the mower and the caretaker. The rest of the night was narrated to her by her mates the next day and the bloke she woke up next to." She slowed his chair to a stop and popped the break on as she remembered her craving for nicotine and to replace the cigarette she had dropped." "How do your parents feel about that?" She pursed her lips on her cigarette and stood poised with her lighter at its end." She couldn't imagine anyone would be worth sacrificing the fun and friendships she had for something serious and life changing like a relationship. and she didn't want an S.I or B." In her memory the night was a blur of flashing colourful lights and thumping dance sounds." "You don't want to settle down with someone at the moment.A.B. talking. The caretaker was besides her filling the large mower with fuel. It was just a casual thing. her potential flame and her earlier clumsiness with a cigarette." She wasn't worried. His stare didn't break and he didn't smile back. If it was anyone but Mr Sinclair the reassurance would irritate her -. She had invested her time. There's is nothing wrong with being homosexual in your generation. She had a few good friends that she could trust like that. but she lived to enjoy life. She sniffed and wrinkled her nose against a noxious odour of petrol. She smiled around the cigarette in a communication of "What the fuck are you staring at?". Never even used to play with baby dolls when I was a child. "You don't want children then?" "No. "Are you a lesbian?" The cigarette bobbed as she laughed. and his stare." "Yeah. "I think my sister is making up for that. then going home together at the end of their night for some safe fun. "Yeah I have met a few Nothing serious." It was." "Don't worry -.why should she worry if no bloke took the bait? She was happy enough being single. She might enjoy sex.A&E didn't allow for slackers. They might see each other out and about. and spend the evening mucking about. but I don't think I want to settle down at all. and I might change my mind when I hit thirty or forty and the scene isn't so forgiving. She walked on with the unlit cigarette between her lips. she's two years younger than me and has one kid already and another on the way" The caretaker had stopped what he was doing and was staring at her. "Have you met any nice men?" The man she woke up next to was called Simon.T. visits to the bar and giggling wickedly. Freak. "You shouldn't be offended. "It was good fun. "Doubt there's anyone worthy enough.went clubbing the other night. money and effort in her nurse training and she worked hard -." "It sounds weird.Y to spoil that." . having a laugh and getting slaughtered.Chapter Thirty 214 "I have been out with the girls -.

and I am not going to have a flat full of cats or become a vegan hippy." Happy she had put some distance between her lighter and the fuel. and averted her gaze from the quivering flame of her lighter and found that Mr Sinclair was squirming in his wheelchair in an attempt to twist his body round so he could look at her. blotting out her vision. She pressed her thumb down on the lighter. Her mind dwelt on the image of the petrol can. not against the light but against the wall of heat that slammed into her. but yeah they do want to. Fire was dangerous. Petrol. She had lit it earlier. The more you try to think about something else the more you think about the thing your trying to avoid. Mr Sinclair blustered. she may have been overcautious earlier. they were in her memories all over the place. It was a safe distance away from Mr Sinclair and herself. The petrol can danced into her head on the back of a pink elephant. pink elephants mooching around the dance floor in some of the more memorable nights out she had at that time. Zoe held the lighter before her and thumbed the striking wheel. She pursed her lips on her cigarette. An image of the petrol can appeared in her mind. in the bedroom of her flat with her and Paul Maguire -. "I have plans to get a place with some friends. Scratch. There was a strong smell coming from him. Okay. Zoe frowned. and I love a bit of meat. She puzzled at it and then dismissed it. She screwed her eyes tightly shut. Petrol can. having dinner with her and her family when she was a teenager. "What the bloody hell did you do that for? I'm soaked!" Zoe frowned at the shock and anger in his voice. then to think about anything but pink elephants for thirty seconds. the lecturer used her in an example of how hard it is to control thoughts. In that second set of thirty seconds she couldn't shake pink elephants. There's always a demand for nursing accommodation. It was already lit. She staggered away. They said that when they meet fella's they will move out and rent their rooms out." If she was having this conversation with her mates the word 'meat' would be substituted with 'cock'. cramming itself into her eyes. she stopped.Chapter Thirty 215 "Jeez. she scanned the common but couldn't see where he was. there wasn't much chance of her lighter being the cause of a fire but she had a healthy respect for danger -. It rubbed. I am a card carrying straight girl who can barely keep a houseplant let alone look after a pet. Zoe applied the flame to the cigarette and sucked its heat into the tobacco.she enjoyed life too much. and I will be there to keep an eye on the place and be the live-in-landlady. the fine ends of her fringe vaporised. leaving the can of petrol beside the mower. An orange light flared. She didn't understand why she would give it any more thought. Her eyebrows tightened as they singed. You sound just like my mates." "Don't they want to settle down either?" "They are enjoying themselves like me. No I am not gay. The petrol can. wet and plastered to his head. She blew out a puff of smoke and carried on walking Mr Sinclair in the direction of the heart of Camden. reeling from the heat.the best sex she had ever had. but dark. Her eyes crossed to the end of the cigarette protruding from her mouth. She laughed and shrugged it off. His grey hair was no longer neatly combed. she admitted to herself. Maybe the petrol can was like when she was on a course about mental health and obsessive thinking. she asked Zoe to think about pink elephants for thirty seconds. Mr Sinclair screamed and thrashed from within a quivering field of fierce yellowy orange light that tore around him twisting into great forks that . The caretaker had gone. her body became awash with sweat that evaporated as quickly as it emerged from her pores. shivered and coughed. but there was no spark. Why was she worried? She wrinkled her brow at her self-questioning. No flame.

"FUCKING BITCH. She didn't understand what the man had meant until she watched herself ignite her lighter and apply the flame to the chest of her uniform. The pain was instant and winded the air from her lungs as heat dug itself into every millimetre of her body. his nose spread across his face in a bloodied mess. It understood the limits of the flesh It needed for form. The smoke rolled up into the air and broke against the face of the East Tower of The Heights. Only then did she realise she had punched him out. It seeped out of the thing that called itself Zoe Sampson and drifted into the head of the creature called Peter Sinclair. It abandoned her. a scrawny boy of about twelve shouted in horror at her. surveying the wide ring of terrified and angry people that drew close to her with their hands gesturing for her to be calm. his gruff face snarled up in anger. animate it. Mr Sinclair was motionless within his smouldering prison. . Zoe Sampson bucked and thrashed within the suit of flame and heat that clung to her and devoured. It watched them both burn. It could become one with it.difficult. The bonding was different -. Zoe spun round.she had torched Mr Sinclair. control it. 216 Hands grabbed at her. After all the trials It had put flesh through It had found that It could soak back into the flesh. She stared at her fist. It felt diminished -. She dropped them both. but she didn't hear his words. but now It understood and shared her fear of fire. Zoe stared at the lighter clutched in her hand. brandishing them both after him as a deterrent. Unable to stay within the flesh as the flame consumed it. On the seventh floor Mrs Sinclair cursed the youths she suspected for the bonfire and shut the window against her husband and his nurse drifting into her home. "Don't do it!" A kind looking man begged her before terror spread from face to face among the onlookers and the circle of people broke and fled. There wasn't a pink elephant in sight. She didn't hear him but read his lips as he shouted. not understanding the slips in time and her trips in and out of awareness. This time It could not enter the flesh." Then he was running away from her and she found that she had the pink elephant of a petrol can in one hand and her lit lighter in the other. and pulled her away from the burning heat.Chapter Thirty stabbed at the tail of a great black snake of cloud pouring itself into the sky.part of itself trapped within the burning flesh. or pulling people back that got too close to her. even when flesh was dead. all colour and detail burnt into blackness. She saw the petrol can lying discarded on its side a few feet from them. The flesh and muscle carbonised charcoal. The skin was ash. Don't do it? She already had -. speckled with his blood and watched the boy scrabble away and a burly man run towards her. The habitat that was Peter Sinclair had been destroyed. his face blanked by shock. create with it or give it life again. He fell to the floor.

Rachel answered her door and appeared a little wary of the heavy-duty power tool. but just looked awkward and anxious as she entered the lounge from the kitchen with two mugs of tea. "Ha-de-ha-ha. We went for a walk together." Craig responded flatly before shaking the gun in the air and adopting a more up-beat tone." Craig enthused." Jason jumped in quickly but sounded like he was reading from a script. Cat put the mugs down heavily on the table as an audible full-stop on Jason's explanation. she joked with him to get out of the mood she had with him. but she was sure her attitude had ruined things between them. so this could be the next best thing." Craig answered quietly. Kelly had lost that competition. Her comment drew no attention from Craig. me and the kid just went out to clear our heads before" Cat widened her eyes in mock drama." "Hopefully 'it' won't want to be on the receiving end either. What was the point. "Cat. "I know." Kelly winced as the guns nail-spitting eye pointed in her direction.Chapter Forty 217 Chapter Forty Kelly walked up the path behind Craig and shook her head at him and the way he coveted the nail gun like a baby. "Well. we can't get our hands on anything like proper guns. you're back?" "Yeah. "Yeah. Cost me a bit. "You would think he saw this as his chance to satisfy his inner child." "I would think you would avoid trying anything from films after your track record of shoulder barging doors. bless Argos and my statutory rights. "I love those films. but if it does help slay our monster then I can take it back on the sixteen-day no questions asked money back guarantee." Cat gave a smile that attempted to be as genuine and friendly as her tone. he was clearly covering up for Cat but Kelly couldn't be bothered to play Cat's games. "the big showdown. only a curious glance from Cat. but I saw it used in a few films." Kelly followed Craig into Rachel's flat. "Not quite. All she needed was a nail in her foot. . Flippancy aside though. Craig passed the nail gun from one hand to the other. Kelly decided to address the elephant in the room that was being ignored. He had opened it and assembled it in the car." Cat said playfully. Kelly nodded to Rachel. God. I wouldn't like to be on the receiving end of that." Rachel teased. I don't like that idea -. He seemed his usual self. but she had insisted that he kept it unloaded while she was driving. "Me too. but a chainsaw or something like that would involve getting up close and personal. inspecting it and testing its weight. Evil Dead style. she pushed it aside. "Argos." Kelly lied weakly.I want to be able to bring it down from a distance!" "Tough guy." "Surprised you didn't go for a chainsaw. "Yes. She had only seen one of them. He was a bad liar.

or that I found he had tipped a bottle of my fifteen-year old single malt down the sink. "Yes. She felt like an outsider in the group again now that Cat had returned." With everyone's attention momentarily upon her Kelly felt a coldness in her gut. and I repeat only if someone is clearly under the influence of the thing in the basement or you are in danger from someone do you use this. If you need to you swing it as hard as you can and they won't be messing with you for long. of course. that she didn't want Jason hurt either. and reasonable. but it was a flare gun they had picked up from an army and navy surplus store on Chalk Farm Road. Craig nodded. the fact that this is a twelve year old talking about Molotov's. I had thought that he would apprise himself of milk bottles from the neighbours. Jason shouldn't be involved." Cat's objection actually sounded diplomatic. Kelly didn't bother smiling back. "Our version of a gun." He pulled the carrier bag that he had tucked into his jeans and from the bag he produced a compact red plastic gun. sarcastic or cruel. you have put him out of the way of the action in our little gunpowder plot and I'm fine with that." "Which one do I get?" Jason asked excitedly. We will have to meet you down there." Cat added quickly. I went out to get some breakfast stuff and they were here when I got back. It was too little too late. "Er! -. It looked like a toy gun. but he's still gonna be on his own.None of them." 218 Jason pointed to an array of different empty bottles on the coffee table. "We got the gas cylinders earlier. he's far more resourceful. "And we have Rachel's hefty sword. "Well." "That should pack a punch!" Jason whooped." "Only if they deserve it." Rachel smiled sourly. "I'm not just saying this to be argumentative. but no. "I don't know what frightens me more. "Something a bit more explosive. Craig deposited the nail gun on the table. 'Goldie' has been dragging her arse all the way here." Kelly watched his face turn down with disappointment and Cat bristle." Kelly was quick to counter. Cat's face hardened and she folded her arms as she too gave up.Chapter Forty Rachel wrung her hands as she watched Cat take a seat with Jason. you are going to be safely locked away. "Only. The smile that Cat flashed at Kelly wasn't smug. "I found plenty of bottles to use for the Molotov's." "You guys get any other stuff?" Jason cut in. Kelly pulled the heavy crow-bar from under her arm and gave it to Jason. and there's an axe we can pinch from the fire point in the lobby. The only interpretation Kelly could make of it was that it was to show Kelly she was on her side. .

although he could feel his breathing alongside the pounding of his heart. The quiet was so strong it was almost tangible like white-noise. Rachel's secret army. "Hey. I trust you. the whir of the lifts. This was it. scanning it over the grey concrete walls run with a black wash of damp and mould. Kelly reached without looking and Jason knew to pass her the crowbar then stand further down the corridor as lookout into the lobby. There were no sounds of movement from the floors above. When they had been making their plans they had reasoned that it could be watching them and they wouldn't know. "It's done. With that confirmation Kelly reached past Craig and tripped the switches. footsteps echoing down the stairs. Craig wordlessly followed Kelly as she headed to the caretaker's office behind the lifts. cutting the power to the lifts. Cat and Rachel. They stood for what seemed like forever. Craig and Rachel followed with theirs while Kelly called both lifts to the ground floor. dragging her cylinder to the lift in a prolonged eruption of noise as the cylinder sang out its hollow ring. He settled the torch light on the trip switches and fuses for the lifts. fire doors banging. The anticipation was horrible. He realised they were all waiting because they expected to be repelled by an instant confrontation. "You two okay with this bit?" They both nodded and started following the plans they had made the previous night. Jason got his mobile phone out and made a show of checking that Cat's.Chapter Forty 219 Chapter Forty One Craig stood in the lobby of The Heights alongside Kelly. that it could strike anywhere and at anytime. The door opened with a deep crunch as the crowbar did its work and chewed the fibres of the wood into ragged splinters. I know you know what you're doing. I'm sure my back's safe with you watching it. Even on the quietest days you usually heard some background noises. listening to the silence of the building. kids on the green. Today the green was empty. she motioned to Rachel and Cat and then at the cylinders." . The crowbar fell clanging to the floor but the noise that gave them away didn't seem to faze Kelly and she just swiped it back up from the floor. "I'm all ready. Finding them clearly labelled and hanging on the wall he snatched them and called Jason back from his look-out duty to the lift maintenance cupboard behind the lifts. The emptiness of the lobby drew in around him. Jason. demonstrating he knew what he was doing. Hastily unlocking the cupboard he found there was no light within." He stated confidently. No sounds at all. Craig moved past her and gave the cluttered room a cursory inspection before searching out the keys they needed. He had never known anyone to have a bonfire there before. They were confident that Alec had finished his daily duties an hour ago and would be in his flat for lunch. Craig's and Kelly's mobile number was stored safely. He listened to the lift doors shut on the ground floor and waited until Cat and Rachel appeared in the doorway of the cupboard. flushed from the exertion of moving the payload into the lift with Cat. and Jason followed him. its familiarity reminded them of the normal lives they had once led in contrast with the disturbing memory of their escape the night before. Kelly leaned heavily into the lever and the door gave up it's resistance in a loud crack and swung abruptly inwards. it felt like he was holding his breath constantly. Cat. Cat ruffled his hair. He had noticed that two patches of the grass were scorched and smoked." Rachel hushed. He grabbed the torch that stuck out from his jeans pocket and shone its puddle of light into the small room. Kelly was the first to act. You've come through for me before.

Kelly handed Jason the long silver key to the cupboard. He slung the empty bag in front of the broken door of the caretaker's room. "Give me a five minute head start. "Guess this is it. Craig knelt down and retrieved the red plastic flare gun from a hold-all Rachel had sorted out for them. Don't open it to anyone but us." "Yeah -.Chapter Forty 220 Craig felt a panic rise in him." "So are we hoping there is a monster down there?" "Would give us a bit of justification. "I hope you're not claustrophobic. No one seemed to mind hearing Jason's part of the plan again." Craig added. I want a Mississippi between each one." she instructed firmly." Cat spoke Craig's own thoughts aloud. Craig handled the heavy awkward tool and stared at it strangely. Craig heard the raw bite of the key securing the door. trespass and a rather large act of arson. Cat does not want you sending that second lift down while she is still on that floor. What did Cat mean? He looked to Kelly hoping she wouldn't bite at the comment. Brave kid. Could he do that? He had never hurt anything in his life and today he had set out to kill something. I know. but you still don't seem yourself. we need more of us in the basement if that's where 'it' is" Craig cut her off. This was the point of no return. She headed to the restricted fire door they had decided the stalker had been using. he just wanted to get this done and over with one way or another.. "I'm scared." Jason flashed a tight smile." Kelly instructed. this could end up with a no-show. He passed it to Cat and then removed the nail gun for himself.we talked about this." "Proper seconds too. He stepped into the cupboard and shut the door behind him." She looked caught.this could end up with us just looking stupid. Kelly spoke directly to Jason. Is it just the fear?" . "Lock it behind you. I feel the same. He imagined it working. "As soon as one of us calls just send the first lift down. "Cat has pulled herself together. but there was no humour in his pale face. He looked scared. punching nails into flesh. Craig felt a surge of protectiveness towards Jason and nudged him playfully. "Course." she admitted grimly. "I can't believe that we're doing this. She stopped and gave him a quizzical look." The others nodded in agreement. "Yeah. kid. Craig exchanged glances with everyone. unsure how to answer. "You're meant to be with the others -. don't answer the phone I doubt we will have any time to answer or talk." Nerves distorted her brief laugh. then once you have sent that lift down count for thirty seconds and send the second lift down.." "On top of facing charges of breaking an entry. He couldn't face them all having a row now. Craig followed her through to the staircase.

He checked his watch and waited. He wiped a sweaty palm on the seat of his jeans and prepared a palm strike to the glass of the small red alarm. Cat and Rachel followed him through and stood each side of him. and the roads would be at their busiest. 'just' the fear of dying. Cat and Rachel shrugged their back-packs off and began . Reaching the bottom of the stairs he gingerly pushed the heavy fire door open and stepped through into the basement. "The idea of unleashing chaos is quite appealing. "It's all very exciting. I guess I just like all my parts where they are!" He watched Kelly nod in agreement before cutting in with his real reason for intercepting her. He just hoped they wouldn't all be dead within the next ten minutes. The fire door drifted shut and stifled much of the ear-aching din of the fire-bells. Cat" Craig arched his eyebrows.it might be easier to not come back from whatever's in the basement. what?!" "Nothing." "I don't think so." Craig fixed her with a grin and stepped to one side." She stumbled and refocused. Five-minutes seemed like five hours but they had passed." "But. "Yeah. "You better get yourself out of there in one piece. same here. I like your parts the way they are too. "I have a lot of baggage -. but he liked her even more for it. It sounds great -." She looked embarrassed and she turned away sharply and jogged up the stairs. "I was kind of hoping that if we get out of here You might fancy going out. Rachel clamped a hand over the ear that faced the bell. The three of them took their cue and hurried through the door of the disused fire exit. With a secure grip on the nail gun Craig led the descent. "Can I?" Rachel suddenly speaking made him jump." She teased before taking his question seriously. it's all a bit daunting.Chapter Forty 221 "Yes." According to Kelly's estimation they would have fifteen minutes before the emergency services arrived through the throng of Camden's market crowds and the boroughs lunch-time traffic." He knew it wasn't just fear. Cute and cheesy. He guessed there was nothing to say. locking it behind them so the undertaker stalker or anyone else couldn't block their exit. Craig left the stairwell and nodded to the others and stood before the fire alarm point. None of them spoke in that time." She hit the box and the shrill bells rang out.I would love to. She had suggested lunch-time in the theory that most of the tower's resident's would be at work and out of danger. or having another one of them microwave meals?" Kelly flushed and looked to be struggling to restrain a broad smile. "Yeah. "Knock yourself out. his heart in his throat. "Cat.

After a few minutes the smoke lifted and flowed steadily through the door like a fast flowing black river. Craig could already feel a film of slick sweat over his entire body. 222 As far as he could tell they were alone. poised with their weapons waiting for the monster. Monster or no monster they were creating their own danger by starting a fire. Craig hunkered down so as not breath any of it in and he rushed back to the fire door and propped it open. and the cool basement air was consumed by a violent heat. The ceiling was a black shifting mass of smoke that rolled to the edges of the room and gradually lowered itself upon them. He began to gather up material from around the basement that would be flammable and with Cat and Rachel he piled it up in the corners and in front of the second set of lift doors according to their plan." Cat did the same. "Yes. "Fuck it. The three of them took a pile each and stood poised with their matches.Chapter Forty carefully removing their bottles of petrol while Craig stood over them and cautiously scanned their surroundings for any movement." Rachel stated and ignited her pile. With a whoomph his pile was a column of writhing flames as tall as he was. They doused them with one of the bottles of petrol. Craig and Cat set fire to the remaining two piles and returned to Rachel's side. fuck it indeed. He returned to Cat and Rachel and stood with them. . What kind of prison sentence did you get for arson these days? Craig stared at both women in turn and he could see the uncomfortable anxiety and indecision that gripped him etched on their faces. The gloom was chased away by a shifting orange glow that sent the shadows darting from place to place. "Fuck it. They hadn't factored that into their plan." He struck his match and tossed it.

" it said apologetically. What about mum? After what dad had done to mum how could he accept dad? "Jason?" the voice asked gently. he frowned at the random memory and shrugged it off. The aliens responded with a mixture of terrified yelps and defiant 'Wart. Jason had been scared -scared for his mum that night. However. He could hear the muffled voices beyond his door. The only fear Jason harboured was for his mum being hurt by letting his dad be part of his life again. It was his dad. His concentration shattered and his sharp aim faltered and he took several avoidable hits. "Me and mum have chatted. wart' laughs. wart.that's not what I wanted. but he channelled it all into his fingers on the X-box controller and the Masterchief character on the screen loosed a barrage of bright blue weapon-fire at the horde of creatures he charged amongst. that was for his mum to decide and deal. and where did that leave Jason? He would never complain about his mum's . "Jason -. Jason strangely remembered the story of the big bad wolf calling on the three pigs. That wasn't for Jason to give. The tone was heated and it boiled the blood in his veins. He knew it was the drink that had made him violent.Chapter Forty 223 Chapter Forty Two Jason tried to focus on his computer game Halo as he guided his character through the corridors of an alien building. The voice attempted being whimsical but failed and changed tact. "Don't be scared of me. The knocks rattled him more than the controller. There was no fear of his dad. I know I did a bad thing that night. Jason's need for his dad was in conflict with his fierce loyalty to his mum. she had already punished his dad. I -. there's no excuse for that. he wouldn't.I know you are in there" It persisted with another two knocks." There was an aching honesty to the words and Jason wanted to forgive him. Jason wanted his mum to take comfort in knowing that although dad had let her down. "I just want to talk to you.I guess you heard that. "Please" Let me in The tug of war pull on his feelings was painful. There was no excuse for what his dad did but Jason accepted that things like that happened. He paused the game and tossed the chunky controller roughly to the floor. but the guilt chilled him.Jason heard his name called through the door. but the frustration and anger had been brewing between his parents for months. He had seen families on TV move on from moments like that. The controllers rumble pack vibrated as enemy fire splashed against his character and coincided with two heavy knocks rapping sharply on his bedroom door. The guilt was like a weight on his back." Let me in Jason's instinct told him his dad wanted to be a part of his life -. he wasn't his dad. pity maybe -. Tears stung at his eyes. she was the only fit judge. I just want to see you Talk to you for a few minutes." the voice faltered.more than that he wanted forgiveness. "I didn't come here to argue -. "Are you scared of me?" Standing with the door between him and his dad. He couldn't ignore his father's voice any longer. He was worried about his mum and angry at his dad.as his dad had lost everything of value because he didn't keep control of his emotions that one time. His hate for his dad burned.

Chapter Forty decision, but he had lost his dad. "Talk then," Jason said bitterly. "Not through the door, Jason," the voice reasoned. "I know you only want to apologise." Jason turned to the door, there was quiet. "Words are easy dad." "I don't just want to apologise. I missed you. I want to see you. Regularly." Let me in Jason's blood rushed with excitement but drained away into the pit of guilt in his gut.


"I've spoken to your mum and she doesn't want you to be without a dad. Me and your mum are going to stay friends so I can come and see you, go out and stuff -- if you want that? Open the door." His mum's permission made things easier. He did want to see his dad. But would she still be disappointed in him somehow? "You do want that don't you? Open the door." Little piggy Yes. He did want that. Jason slipped the long silver key from his pocket. Suddenly there was a strange feeling of unreality, like Déjà vu, a sudden awareness that something was out of place. He didn't have a lock on his bedroom door. He stared at the key then at the dark key hole. Strange. Then the moment passed and he accepted it. His door was locked and to get to his dad he had to unlock it. What was so problematic about that? Yet he couldn't shake the sickness that fluttered in his stomach. "Open the door." Little piggy! Or I will huff and I'll puff Jason slipped the head of the key into the hole, the gritty teeth biting sharply into the barrels combination. Something was wrong. He dismissed it roughly. It was dad. Dad had only been frightening that one time. There was nothing to fear. He turned the key in the lock. The door was forced inwards, twisting Jason's hand back at an awkward angle and pushing him to the back of the cramped room. He clutched at his aching wrist, suddenly aware he was no longer in his room but back in the lifts electrical cupboard. His dad wasn't in the doorway, it was another man, Jason recognised the man with the short solid build as Alec the caretaker. Jason's responsibility pressed in on him. He had opened the door! Alec smiled disarmingly from his familiar round face, but Jason knew this was bad, knew Sparky -- the entity could control people, knew Alec couldn't be trusted. Alec smiled, but his voice was hard, like the tone of a teacher telling him off. "You shouldn't be in here. It's trespassing." The smile went. The face was blank. Eyes cold. "You better run along." Little piggy, or I'll eat you all up Did Alec have a set of ragged wolf teeth in his mouth? Jason's eyes switched to the crowbar on the shelf between them. If he made a grab for it Alec would be able to reach him. He needed to pee. Leaving his feet planted to the ground, he lunged forward, snatched at the tool and hauled himself back on his heels. His grip was clumsy, made worse by the pain in his wrist from where the door had been forced open. His

Chapter Forty


awkward snatch at the weapon swept the vital mobile phone from the shelf. It clattered onto the concrete, and the phones plastic case splintered in all directions. The phone was essential. Without the phone the others couldn't give him the signal. Without the signal he didn't know when to send the lifts down. His fingers winced with the phones impact and caused the crowbar to slip out of his grip. Jason's hand frantically clapped the air trying to catch the weighty tool. He caught it and fumbled to secure his grip. Alec lunged strong hands out to restrain him. Although Jason's grip of the tool was awkward he swung it upward wildly between him and Alec in an attempt to ward him off. Alec stepped away, startled by Jason proving that he was willing to fight. With the extra space and time his swing had afforded him Jason took a better grip of the crowbar, blood rushed in his ears and his heart pounded uncomfortably in his throat. Poised to strike and inflict an injury, Jason was suddenly detached from himself. A misplaced blow from the crowbar could kill. This was Alec! Someone his mum always had a hello for. A sense of doing wrong slithered in his gut. Jason knew he shouldn't be in the lift maintenance cupboard and it was Alec's job to look after the building. To stop vandals. That's what Jason was in this moment, a vandal. Alec had the right to be there and to evict anyone that trespassed or damaged things, he was the caretaker -- the adult. The others in the basement were relying on him, he had already failed by opening the door he wasn't going to fail by losing control of the lifts. Alec took advantage of Jason's confusion and took a sudden step into the cupboard. "I told you to get out." He snarled. Jason had no choice. He swung the crowbar wild.

Chapter Forty


Chapter Forty
Three The noise of Kelly's jog up the stairs was masked by the shrill alarm bells that echoed and chased up and down the shaft of the stairwell. She stepped onto another darkened landing and peeked cautiously through the glass panel of the fire-door, saw the corridor was clear and quickly checked the bolt; it was unlocked as the previous six floors had been. It seemed clear to her that this was how the thing stalked the building unseen. She quickly slid the bolt home as she had with the others and would with any more she might find unlocked, hopefully ensuring that if the undertaker was stalking the corridors it couldn't get back to cut off the others retreat. Her heart skipped a beat and she nearly lost her grip on her axe as something snagged at her jeans. Her heart fell into a tremble as her phone vibrated again in her hip pocket. She pressed the phone to her ear and took the call, not taking her eyes off of the landing ahead in case the undertaker or whatever-else might suddenly step into view. "You okay?" Craig asked, barely audible above the bells. "Yeah. I'm half-way up. Nothing to tell you yet, though. I take it it's not with you?" "No," there was a pause before his tone turned grim. "Not yet. We have set the fires. There is lots of smoke, but nothing has come out to investigate or challenge us yet." "Yeah the smoke is coming up the middle of the stairwell. It's not affecting me, just makes it a bit difficult to see if anything is on the landings or stair cases ahead until I get on top of them. We won't have long before the services get here. Maybe it knows that. If there's nothing up here it looks like it will be down to you guys. When I'm done I will move straight to the bottom and guard the escape route as we planned. I'm going now, I don't like standing still too long." Kelly wasn't sure how to end the call after Craig had asked her out so she wished him luck and ended the call. Kelly looked past the shifting column of black smoke that flowed upwards to the landing at the top of the stairs ahead of her. A dark silhouette was standing against the frosted glass window making it hazy and indiscernible at first, but then she recognised the shape. She looked down to the rose in her hands and she knew the night, the time and the place. She immediately felt the comfort and familiarity of being home, the feel of the carpet under her bare feet, the paint colour she had chosen for the hallway walls. This wasn't her flat, it was her house. "I am so sorry I missed the meal you made for me," Ian apologised sensitively from within the black silhouette. Kelly remembered the words and could feel the frustration of the moment rise within her. She knew the anniversary meal would be sitting on the table in the dining room behind her. It was spoilt. She had kept it heated for as long as she could but it had dried up. "Things have just been so busy, what with work." She saw his shape move as he put a hand over his face in shame. "There's no excuse; I'm sorry I forgot our anniversary." "It doesn't matter," she found herself repeating words she had spoken before. The words lacked conviction and seemed ill-fitting and squirmed within the mould of her past statement. She marvelled at how weak she had been. Of course it mattered! "I haven't been a very good husband have I?"

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Something was wrong with Ian's words: Ian had admitted his failings that night, but now there was a depth of emotion to his voice which hadn't been present before. "You don't think I have been a very good husband do you?" There was no drunken slur, no spite. Memory suddenly seemed useless, not preparing her for the turn in her memories and his heartfelt tone. "Are you staying?" she said, following the script in her head despite the anomaly. Her emotions formed into a hard smooth snooker ball in the back of her throat. "Yes -- if you want me to." Her heart tightened and she almost forgot to breath. Her thoughts scrambled over these new words. He was meant to turn her down, say his friends were waiting for him. What was happening? She had never played with 'what ifs' around that night, too much had happened for her to consider staying with him. That night had been the latest unhappy times in a chain of unhappiness that ran through the last two years of their time together. His words and actions had been her closure that night, but now there was no descent into inevitable finality. The lingering flicker of hope, which she had desperately nurtured until that night returned with its warm glow. She found herself yearning for something she thought was lost. He rubbed his face in defeat. "I don't even know where things started to go wrong. I always wanted someone -- someone to be with, to love, to love me back." "You changed." "I know. I can't believe I have let this all go wrong -- That I could forget what made us work. I'm so sorry" his voice strained to word his realisation. Kelly watched him fall apart in front of her under the weight of his own self-awareness. "I always knew relationships had the years where things are stagnant; I guess I thought they righted themselves. I got lazy. I guess I was so happy with what I had; I didn't realise I had to keep working at a relationship. I forgot about the things that made us happy; the things that we planned for. I let it all slide and I don't know why because I love you so much. I love us so much." Kelly couldn't see his eyes but she knew that he fixed them on her, trying to read her face for some response he could cling to as a sign that he could save their relationship and himself. It didn't make sense to her but the nervous anxiety at the thought of being able to save what they once had was building around her. "I'm so fucking stupid. All I had to do was take an interest in our life together, do things I know I enjoy. Hold you now and again, show you how much I want to keep you by taking hold of you; to keep you wanting me." I always wanted you! I never stopped! The thoughts nearly escaped to her lips but she held them back. Things weren't so clear now. He started to walk slowly down the stairs towards her. "Is it too late?" Was it too late? Her mind had been led down a path she hadn't thought possible and now the way back seemed lost to her; she had a purpose that now evaded her. She looked to the rose in her hands, its presence nagged at her. The labyrinth of confusion sprawled suddenly endless around her and she knew that if she wanted what Ian offered she had to accept it now -- if she hesitated, it could all be lost again. She stood frozen in motion as her mind drifted with the direction of the moment. It had been so hard since she had left Ian, selling the house, trying to find a future for herself. She could get her dreams back.

Chapter Forty She had loved Ian so much. Ian closed in on her, his outstretched hand ready to slide over her shoulder. She knew his touch and she yearned for the feel of his hands on her flesh. It had been so long since she had been lost in the comforting familiar passion Ian's body offered.


The silhouette stepped on to the landing and drew a knife from within its borders. The undertaker reached out with one hand towards Kelly, its gnarled fingers closing on the soft flesh of her throat.

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Chapter Forty
Four Rachel stood in the whirl of flame that lapped at the walls of the basement, her skin tightening with the heat while fine fibrous tendrils of black smoke teased the sensitive interior of her throat. The acrid air that stung at her nose and eyes suddenly sweetened and became like sherbet as the choking smell became a hauntingly familiar scent; the scent Helen had always used. The flickering gloom of the basement was replaced by the grey light of an overcast day. The wall before her had been replaced with the view down into the basin of the city from parliament hill. As if a cinema screen had been lowered in front of her. The sky was a cool grey and a cool breeze stirred the golden brown trees before filtering down over her in a welcome relief from the heat of the fires. Helen's scent grew stronger and Rachel felt her presence at her side. Rachel couldn't be shocked by the dead. She had always hoped and wished, but never thought, she would see Helen in this way. Rachel turned to her calmly, aware that the others may clearly see her talking to something they could not see, but she would not let embarrassment restrain her. She scanned Helen from her autumn red hair that fell around her delicate face of snow, to the slim figure wrapped in her large chunky-knit grey jumper, and jeans. They would often take walks together, Parliament Hill. Highgate cemetery, Primrose Hill, Little Venice. Autumn was their preferred time of year. They both loved the colours, but for Rachel it was a time when Helen became one with the colours of nature and while everyone else was drained of colour Helen glowed. She was always a warm fire on a cold day. She missed those times, being alone together, laughter, tears, long comfortable silences in which she always wanted to tell Helen how she felt about her. "There's so much I haven't told you" Somehow Rachel was no longer in the basement but wading her way through the leaves with Helen. Helen took her hand. "I know," her tone was comforting and reassuring. "I know now. I only wish I had realised in time." The ache that had lived with Rachel since she had met Helen built into an abrupt pain as she gave in to all the regrets and chastisement she had for her unsaid words, but then the pain was gone and there was only a feeling of completion and satisfaction. Helen finally knew. "We all have regrets. I shouldn't have been so blind," Helen said kicking lazily at the autumn leaves as they walked. "It all feels so real," Rachel said remotely, feeling the sadness that this perfect moment couldn't last. "In here" Helen turned and put a hand on Rachel's chest, "It's real enough. The heart and the mind can work magic; we just let reality ground us. All our dreams and hopes are stored here. We can recreate any moment past or any future you wish with a single thought. You are luckier than most because you can actually see and interact with what would normally be gone and be in the past." Rachel smiled with the sentiment, wishing the tears away. Helen had a gift of saying poetic things and making life seem magical. Helen turned around and Rachel followed her, they faced a large screen and they could see into the basement. Rachel could see herself standing with Cat and Craig, waiting for the beast to emerge.

Chapter Forty "I'm sorry Cat has been so painful for you." "I wanted to be there for her, for you. To help her. To grieve together."


Helen stroked the image of Cat. "There is a future for you and Cat. A future where she can let herself love you as she does me." Rachel's eyes brimmed with tears. She put a hand to her mouth to stifle a sob and spoke through her faces rigor. "There is?" "You have a hole in your heart since I left." "The hole is for Cat. I kept it for her. Plenty of room for her when she is ready. I'm patient." Helen looked distracted. The same face Helen she had seen when Helen had told Rachel of the cancer, and then the day she had told her she wouldn't win her battle. "That hole might devour you." Helen breathed. "You have always given everything to me and Cat -- so much so you may have little left should anything happen to Cat." Rachel looked to Cat with alarm. "What are you saying?" Helen turned away from the image of the basement and stood between Rachel and Cat. She took Rachel's hands in hers as she had when she had told her she was dying. "If you follow the path you have chosen, Cat will die." "We are all at risk down there." "But if you face the beast. Cat will not survive." "Don't say that." Rachel sagged in Helen's grip her legs buckling beneath her. "It can't be -- you can't know for sure." "Don't let fear turn you against an ability that you have always trusted and relied upon. It's why I am here. I have never needed to come back before, but I saw the future and I had to come." "No. You said Cat and I had a future together?" Helen smiled warmly. "There is a future for you both. What you have chosen to do is noble and brave -- what I would expect of you, but it will lead to death and pain." A guilty selfishness crawled within Rachel. She could say to the others that she couldn't sense the thing, that they had got it wrong that they should leave before they got caught by the fire-fighters and police. She could get Cat out. "Rachel, it is your decision but the course you have chosen has consequences, I will be here for Cat when the time comes as I will be here for you in the future when it is your time." Rachel had accepted that what they were doing could be the end for all of them, but she had never considered that she might survive and lose Cat. Cat was all she had left in her life. "But all the people in this tower What should we do about them? We can't abandon -- ."

Chapter Forty


Helen shook her head sagely. "I didn't mention abandoning the others, but not all battles have to be fought by you or fought alone. Let others fight this one. You are in control of your actions. If you warn them they will listen. If you leave; they will follow."

but the voice that issued from the dry cracked lips. Nothing. It was going to be over quicker than he thought. her finger stabbing insistently for him to look back at the lockers. Don't trust your senses. "Craig. "No Craig! Look out!" The undertaker appeared in the gap. It was strange to think that all he had to do was pull the trigger and he would most likely kill the thing. Shoot it. Craig!" Cat hissed in his ear from behind him. He was glad too. Its mouth hung open in a cruel grin. Why did he hesitate? "Craig --shoot it!" Cat demanded. matted in places and plastered to her face in others with sweat and blood. Craig looped his fingers round the trigger and felt the cold metal in his sweaty grip. but Kelly had their backs." It was using Cat's appearance to get around him. Her clothes were filthy with dust and dirt and her staggering exhausted movements all made her appear as if she had crawled out of the ground itself." Vicki fell to the floor but continued to crawl away from the lockers. This was no time to be mucking around. but the figure of the undertaker was suddenly replaced by Cat. But the thing could appear behind them His nerve went and he craned over his shoulder. Her voice only . Craig's finger tightened against the resistance of the trigger. "Don't point that at me!" Cat's voice from behind him urged him on. He remembered Cat had said it might try and get into their heads. rolled onto her side and seeing the undertaker behind her. Craig closed his eyes hoping his eyelids would wipe the image of Cat away and reveal the undertaker. what are you doing?" He didn't answer. stumbled out from between the lockers. He felt vulnerable having the open fire door to the stairs behind him. Craig went to lunge towards her when he was halted by Rachel screaming at him. It was starting. Cat shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. There was gnawing doubt in his gut. the undertaker stood before him raising its knife threateningly at Vicki as it advanced. He glanced around him at the fires that continued to burn steady. He wanted this over. and the nail gun tracked her movements. help me. her voice losing it's steadiness in his ear. He channelled all his hate for the trickster-stalker that tried to confuse his mind and focussed it into the finger on the trigger to loose a stream of nails into its face. "Craig. Especially not with that thing.Chapter Forty 232 Chapter Forty Five Craig maintained the aim of the nail gun at the locker despite the ache in his arms at holding the weighty tool before him. her blonde hair dirty with grime and dust. Craig. Rachel shrieked "Craig!" Startled he glanced at her. "Don't point that at me!" Cat snapped at Craig as she stared into the eye of Craig's nail gun. It wasn't her presence that startled Craig. Suddenly it was Cat again. saw the panic in her eyes. Vicki. her crawl became a scramble. The gap was no longer empty. Wanted to kill the creatures and get Vicki and himself out. This was it. he opened them again and found it had worked. A gaunt pale woman. "Shoot it. "It's not me.

. and I don't sense anything down here. every detail that she could imagine. She could sense tenebrous tendrils reaching out from the gap in the lockers into Craig and Rachel. Kelly had made it quite clear she didn't trust her. Dividing them." Craig shouted at Cat. oblivious to Cat's predicament. Rachel and Kelly. She felt for the muscular portal in her mind and centred on it as she had during her earlier visit to the basement." It was no use." Rachel wasn't stepping in. "Oh.Chapter Forty 233 seemed to anger him more. Turning them against each other. "Cat we need to get out of here. "Come on. Suddenly Cat was the epicentre of a swell in the atmosphere. The emergency services will be here any minute. and that won't help anyone." "Don't move! You stay away from her. Cat turned to her. the way they stood and moved. we are going to get in trouble. then the pressure broke and rushed away from her. another snaked its way through the fire escape door and up the stairs with the smoke. The thing was distorting his perception of her struggle with Rachel. She closed her eyes and conjured the faces of Craig. "Craig it's me. I think were in the right place. I think we were wrong. Suddenly Cat understood. but she couldn't break away from the older woman's grip. as had Jason. This time she knew what to expect from loosening the muscle and she channelled as much mental concentration as she could into controlling the volatile power straining within. "Craig it's me." Rachel pulled at Cat's arm. Distracting them." She stepped towards Rachel hoping that he might not risk firing if there was a chance he might hit Rachel. Cat. "It's me I'm on your side. To Kelly? It was controlling their minds." Rachel said urgently. She still fixed her stare into the gap. and the atmosphere became calm and still once more. their clothes. and Rachel had no reason to trust her after the way she had treated her. The wait for something to happen must have gotten to Craig's nerve and turned him paranoid. He didn't trust her.

With all the power and bitterness she could summon from the nightmare she had just experienced she pitched the axe behind her and swung it forward. That meant trusting someone new. The creature's knife slashed down at her. and the tingling anticipation of Ian's kiss was swept away with it leaving only the sensation of her throat being gripped too tightly. the hand still holding the blade but the arm no longer attached to the body. "Cat. no longer a rose in her hands. She brought the head of her axe up sharply under the creature's chin. She opened her eyes and stared into twin wells of green light glowing from a rotting face inches from her own." He was suddenly certain that Vicki had been a victim of this thing. I'm so sorry. She ducked to one side and swung her axe back at the undertaker. It was all she needed." He clenched his eyes against his grief for Vicki and the thought of nails slamming into Cat's head. She rested on the hilt of her axe and swiped a slick of sweat from her face allowing her aggression to subside into satisfaction that the creature would not be resurrected any time soon. Her thought shocked her. He dropped the nail-gun to his side and rubbed his head with his other hand. the blade missing her by millimetres. Its grimace didn't break as its head and hat tumbled over the banisters and into the smoke. Something rushed through her thoughts. the undertaker stood close to her with its knife drawn back ready to stab. it ricocheted noisily as it fell to the basement and landed with a muted crash. Its remaining arm dropped to the ground." And this time it was Cat. She had seen too many horror films to be fooled by that. A sobering gale forced itself over her. Somehow the thing was still being directed. It would be so easy to kiss Ian. His finger ached from his sustained draw of the tools trigger. with its concentration shattered its knife arm flailed wildly and the creatures grip on Kelly's throat flinched. Another hit cleaved down through its neck into its chest and the cadaver fell clumsily to its knees. Vicki was gone and there was no disturbance of the dust and dirt of the floor that suggested she had ever been there. His grip on her throat was firm. The shrill sound of the fire bells crashed back in on her senses in a jarring tumble of noise that reverberated through her head and into her teeth. It was motionless. Unprepared for the creature to still be fighting. There was no longer carpet underfoot. shredding her face. but couldn't break free from its hold. she was slow to react. She stepped aside letting it fall onto its front. his lip was trembling with sadness at what he had done to their relationship or fear at how she might react to him kissing her. Kiss me.Chapter Forty 234 Chapter Forty Six Kelly could feel Ian's hands on her neck. if it was anyone else it would be uncomfortable. He had come so close to pulling the trigger. . except she didn't feel it disturb her clothes or hair. but couldn't be sick. From abject panic she pitched herself into anger. He could feel Cat rub his back. hacking at the twitching body that stood before her in denial of its own mortality. didn't feel it on her skin but in her mind. From beneath the shadow of its tall hat. His stomach lurched and he doubled over and wretched. She squirmed and squealed. almost quartering its body. She pushed herself backwards and broke free. but with the electric promise of a kiss. She closed her eyes. its dark rotten grimace drew over its teeth in a wicked grin. he was staring into her eyes. Its noxious stench in her mouth and its slick fingers at her throat. The undead creature recovered and stabbed at her. Is this what she wanted? She wanted Craig. "I'm sorry. She hacked again and the knife clattered to the floor. of their love being rekindled it only made her want him more. to give in to him. She hailed down six more blows. "Craig it's me.

Using your fear and imagination against you. Rachel was already moving towards the gap. The idea was madness. her face twisted up with a rage and hatred he didn't understand. she was their main weapon. it was in your head. The glass shattered and the combustible liquid ignited spreading violent fans of gorging flames across the broken uneven floor within. What had it done to her? She held up a Molotov. Distract it from its attack on Cat. a demonic Rorschach head with seven dark gashes torn into a face of burning energy. Braced in readiness they glanced about themselves warily. Cat stood with her flare gun." Rachel's voice was thick. their home-made Molotov's. "I can see it. "Now what?" Craig found himself asking after some time had passed. It's breaking out of its chrysalis. The pain subsided and the ghost image receded. Rachel brandished her sword with both hands. dimly aware that Cat and Rachel had also been felled and were also clutching at their heads. Trying to trick you. It sees me. "What can we do?" Craig shouted to Cat then Rachel." Rachel stated. yellows and oranges. "That face It was so big. he saw a locker smack Rachel to the ground a second before lockers slammed into him. All three hurled them in unison between the lockers." Craig and Cat grabbed a bottle of petrol each. he was prepared for the very air around them to suddenly manifest the evil they had come to face. Sharp mandibles flicked open from under its head in a jagged jaw and it screamed an unnatural voice of a thousand infants and it burned with a sudden painful intensity." Cat answered. "Were going to kill it. The maelstrom of flames reduced the darkness in the gap and the room beyond to a relief of shifting blacks. in my head. "Attack it. Craig took up his nail gun again and levelled it at the lockers. Each tumult and movement of colour threatened to be a glimpse of the thing they waited for. Cat suddenly doubled over and cried out in pain. Clawing at my mind. but hesitated. They watched the gap and waited. glancing back at the crippled Cat. gripped his head and fell to his knees. "Let's burn it. He dropped his weapon. the only place their attacker could be hiding. "What was that?" "A cry of anger from the thing that had been in our heads. Ripping. He hit the hard ground ." A green glow lurched from the back of his eyelids. and lit them from the piles of smouldering rubbish about them." Rachel demanded with concern carved across her face. What chance would Craig and Rachel have? "I don't think this is such a good idea" "It's COMING!" Cat suddenly shrieked at them. "It's in my head." "Shut it out Cat. A triangular shape that angled up into horns. Craig followed." 235 "Yes." Rachel stated blankly. her sword held before her. The lockers either side of the gap flew through the air. knocking the air out of him and carrying off his feet. Just how big is this thing?" "It doesn't matter." She screamed.Chapter Forty "It's okay.

He turned back in Rachel's direction and saw that her efforts to drag herself across the ground had grown more desperate. He took a hold of it. Then he saw that she wasn't dragging herself to safety but to her sword. She saw that Craig was looking over to her but she didn't react. One side of her face was a mask of blood. His stomach flipped and he cursed. pressing down completely on one leg and the top of the other one. Hopefully recovering from the psychic attack she had experienced. her loose perm flattened and matted to her head on that side. the top of the locker ended just below his ribs. It looked at Craig and he felt his own energy weaken. He tossed his head from side to side looking for his nail-gun. the creature that had been created from the people that had been taken. His forearms burned with pain from where they had been skinned and grazed in his slide across the gritty ground. Whatever had tossed the lockers aside like skittles was now in the room with them. as if his very essence was being drained from him through its black hole gaze. almost shaking itself free again as he accidentally pulled the trigger and pumped nails wildly into the air. Its abdomen wasn't like the firm body of a spider raised from the ground. a click click click click. the locker had crushed her pelvis. He gritted his teeth against the pain of moving and he lifted himself up onto his elbows to increase his field of vision. her face stayed blank with shock as she began to drag herself backwards. The lockers had been smashed aside. He struggled to catch his breath then lifted his head off the ground to check his situation. The world blacked out then. He was grateful to not be feeling any pain from them at the moment. It staggered out of the enlarged hole on six spider-like legs and glowed with an internal green luminescence. the locker looked to be lying across him. Its seven empty slash-like eyes scanned the room. the blackness was shifting and flowing across his eyes and he realised he was on his back staring at the ceiling with its flow of smoke. He wondered how many ribs had been broken from the impact but didn't want to check. Each eye was like a black hole consuming all light. propping herself up on her elbows. There was another locker fallen across that one. He couldn't move his legs or his lower body under the crushing weight of the locker pinning him to the floor. folded back onto the creature's body and instead of being used to walk they thrashed and stabbed the air before it like javelins. but it was a ribbed gelatinous sack bloated with fluid that dragged behind the creature. her flare gun skittering away from her grip.Chapter Forty 236 several metres from where he had been standing with a tremendous weight on top of him. cried and dropped his own weapon a he realise he had shot her. It had two other legs at the front. A loud sound entered the room. even the light from its own body seemed to flow and pour into the holes. He couldn't see that part of the room for two the lockers piled on top of him. Craig turned his head within his limited degree of freedom and saw that Cat was struggling to her feet. and its elongated spine-like neck hunkered so that its cumbersome angular and horned head could duck down. He wept for her. He looked for Rachel and saw she was lying on the other side of the room. but as he lifted it its unbalanced weight tugged the tool free of his awkward grip. "Cat? Cat!" . This was the result of the harvest. and dragged it to him with his finger tips. Cat clapped a hand to her head and fell to the ground. ignoring the pain of his raw skin rubbing at the dirt and grit of the floor. He saw that her feet were turned out from each other and were limp against the floor and he understood why she couldn't get up. The creature was branded with the rune that Rachel had told them represented the harvest. Above the middle eye there were two scars shaped like interlocking V's. He quickly tightened his fingers only for it to kick and buck in his hand. sound of things being stabbed at the concrete floor and the slurp slurp sound of something heavy and slimy being dragged across the ground. The thing was taller than the low ceiling of the basement would allow. Finding it between him and Cat he stretched out his arm and fingers.

its arms staking Rachel to the ground through her abdomen and chest. The wound that Rachel had inflicted on the creature squirmed. apparently spent from the force of her attack. Glowing green goo pattered out onto the concrete along with misshapen lumps that looked like internal organs. It was all he could do. Craig watched sections of the spider's abdomen split under the hail of fire. Able to see where his nails were hitting he steadied his aim and concentrated his fire on one area. Rachel swung her sword back in the direction it had just come from and it cleaved through one of its six legs below its second knee joint. then tore open under the pressure of whatever filled the creatures abdomen. The creature shook its javelins free of Rachel's body and waved at the nails but couldn't stop Craig shattering a section of its ribs. Drawing the life and energy from him. Craig pressed on with his attack. but what Craig saw stopped him finding any satisfaction or hope in his attack. The force of the gun rattled the bones in Craig's hand as it slammed the nails through the air one after the other in a rapid succession of blurry metal hyphens. a shriek.Chapter Forty The creature let out an awful sound. He squeezed the trigger in rapid succession. Parts of the people it had harvested. A large object fell out and it resembled a partly dissolved or deformed limb of some kind. Cat who had been laid out by his own weapon. Maybe she wasn't seriously injured? Before he could think any further he saw the creature descended fiercely upon Rachel. a roar. Don't give up! Craig willed. a laugh all at once. It carried around a store of harvested organs and body parts in its sac so it could regenerate. Now the creature screamed. He knew he was next. The creature roared and reared upward in pain from Rachel's attack slamming its head clumsily against the ceiling. Rachel slumped. He shifted his aim and watched a line of wounds trail up from the sac to the creature's chest and he held his aim steady there. They had to damage it quicker than it could heal itself. Craig clutched the nail-gun tightly and swung the heavy tool onto the creature with a bitter rage. The creature stood proud over its kill. Bony emaciated fingers sheathed in slime split out from the flesh each side of the wound. and Craig knew it was ready to pounce on Cat. Staring into him. The sword wilted in Rachel's hands before it found her target and clattered heavily to the floor as it slipped from her loosened grip. Craig crawled sideways. A large section of the sac shredded. The shortening of its leg caused the creature to crash awkwardly to the ground. The creature howled. The creature was staring at him with its seven black eyes. trying to grasp the nail gun he had dropped just out of reach. 237 The spider-creature lurched back on its six legs and reared its lance arms back. The thing could heal itself. As he did so he saw Cat roll onto her back. Rachel suddenly cried out and he saw that she had her sword. the tempered metal sang out as it struck the concrete floor. sending a steady stream of nails shooting through the air like miniature arrows or spinning like vicious death-stars. While the sword was pointing away the creature leapt forward and lunged both of its javelin arms downwards. but it instantly scrabbled to regain its footing and it shifted its weight onto its other legs. renting it open and loosing a flow of thick lumpy fluid from the wound. but kept a tight grip of her weapon. It didn't react. She raised the sword weakly and swung it in a wavering arc behind her for another hack. and the two hands clasped together over the gash. It cut at the creature's ribs and knitted flesh. Despite her injuries she swept the hefty weapon behind one shoulder then swung it before her in a wide arc until it was over her other shoulder. . fingering the ground. it glowed and was then no longer a wound. With Rachel gone it stared back at Cat.

No. and rushed to his side. one leg then another." "Where's Rachel?" Kelly's face twisted in anguish. Its legs and arms clawed frantically and uselessly at the lodged flare as the ball of intense heat continued to turn its flesh into flame. The toy-like flare gun rushed across the ground. thrashing violently like a great crane fly trapped in an invisible web. Movement was painful. Tell me she's injured. but it was steadily ." The flare faded and the darkness fought its way back. Its sixth leg had re-grown! In a single bound of its legs it cleared half the gap between the creature and Craig. He continued to pump nails into the creature while he hung off Kelly." Cat stood and stared into the creature that thrashed wildly but it couldn't get through the invisible wall that seemed to be there. He dared to look back at the creature and saw it was held fast in its striking pose." Craig grabbed her and was dragging her now.Chapter Forty 238 Had to exhaust its harvest. The creature staggered backwards screaming the loudest Craig had heard it scream. Craig called for her to help him. The lower part of the creatures face opened up as it lunged at him. "We can and we must. The shock movement sent his aim wild again. but he was getting used to pain with his recent injuries. "No. and tears streamed down her face before Craig could explain. We have to make Rachel count. He saw Cat get up from the floor. The creature leapt forward on its six legs. She didn't even hesitate. Its two jointed arms reached from the base of its long neck and prepared to puncture Craig's chest and snap off his head with its jaws. Craig still had a head. "We have to get out of here. She could see Rachel's body. Both of his legs hurt. Craig. its mandibles snapping wide leaving a trail of thick mucous stringing from its gaping maw. and Craig found he could push the other one away himself. Kelly dragged Craig to his feet and he soon found there wasn't a way of avoiding the pain." "Kelly we have to go. "I don't know how long Cat can keep that up. Thankfully the one that had covered most of his body must have been fairly empty. Individual colours were suddenly burned away by a red fire as the smoking flare leapt the small distance from the weapon into its targets chest to the left of its neck. Free of pain the creature stopped thrashing. and his chest ached with every breath. Its pace was slow. He wasn't speared to the ground. If we don't get out of here now we will lose our only chance of killing this thing. She pulled the top locker away. and nearly stumbled back out when she saw the creature. Her jade eyes glowed with an internal green furnace. Kelly appeared in the doorway. nails ricocheted off the concrete ceiling in a shower of sparks and masonry dust before they fell tinkling to the ground around him. leapt up through the air and into her waiting hand as if pulled by an invisible force. Was Cat doing that? There was a pop and Cat's hand was kicked back by her gun as it expelled its load in a fizzing whoosh of smoke and light. The air was still clearly holding the thing back from rushing them somehow. He turned his face away from the imminent attack and kept pumping his finger on the trigger. He just had to find the right way of holding himself to avoid triggering the pain. Cat held the creature in her continual stare but now it stared back and began to walk forward. The creatures rib cage rocked with the impact and tendons and muscle burned away with the intense heat." "We can't leave her.

He pulled his phone out of his pocket and thumbed speed dial through to Jason's phone. Cat didn't have long. The ring would be the signal that Jason was waiting for. There was blood streaming from Cat's nose and eyes and her head and shoulders trembled with the effort of whatever she was doing to hold the thing back. .Chapter Forty 239 gaining ground against them. Craig dragged Kelly out of the door and up the stairs to the lobby.

The lift doors slid open and she leapt within.Chapter Forty 240 Chapter Forty Seven Cat retreated to the doors of the first lift. she needed the creature at the lifts or their plan might not work. The creature slammed heavily against them and the lift trembled as the outer doors buckled and came loose from the wall. Now heading away from the danger she became aware of the blood dripping from her wounded ear. She stabbed frantically at the button for the ground floor where she hoped Craig and Kelly waited. She stopped any thought of doing anything but holding the creature back. Superheated flame and white hot ribbons of metal sprayed out. pulling at the metal in frenzy. The wall of fire receded. it's mandibles gnashing. yanking the door panels free. destroying the objects they had used as fuel. The second lift arrived and the creature crouched down to enter. the creature staring at her. it's legs stamping the ground. The coolness of the metal box was an instant relief. but then so was the air around her. Suddenly unleashed. She wouldn't get past the creature to the fire door that Craig and Kelly had left by. The atmosphere within the lift ignited abruptly around the creature in a rushing ball of blue yellow flame. weakening the last of her barrier. even the stairs beyond would be too cramped for its current frame. The creature thrashed against the closed doors of the lift. boiling over the creature in a storm of fire and shredding shrapnel. from the surface injuries and the deep pain that tore at the fabric of her brain. The sound of the second lifts descent rumbled through her and she found she was holding her breath as she waited and braced herself. They ruptured the instant the flow of gas expired and violently disgorged an expanding rushing sphere of explosive light. trying to shake her resistance and regain control. She attempted to kick at the pile and the creature gained half a metre on her. Cat held her breath listening to the sounds of the outer door being mauled as the lift slowly left the basement. The second lift that was on its way. The fires they had started were burning fiercely. Cat slammed against the metal wall of the lift as it shuddered violently and surged upward riding the explosive demise of its companion car. the lift was her only way out now. moving it back and gradually closing the gap between them. suckling the energy from her. its glare drawing her energy while it pressed its will against hers. a burning wreck. it's black hole eyes expanding and contracting. it's spear-like arms lunging. The creature staggered backwards screaming. The lights flickered and Cat's stomach lurched as the lift dropped suddenly as gravity overpowered the force of the fiery blast. pushing itself against the invisible barrier she held against the creature. Besides. She pressed herself against the metal of the lift doors. The heat built within the basement as the flames consumed and replaced the oxygen around it. . they were hot. the creature gained another half-metre on her and it filled her field of vision. brow and bloody nose. it lunged forward as the doors of the lift lazily closed. the fall forcing her onto her hands and knees. The creature thrashed its broad head wildly from side to side. Cat knew the fire door was too small for the thing to escape through. devouring its way back along the gas flow revealing four gas cylinders swallowing the fire. Within the sanctuary of the lift her control waned and she lost her focus on the space between her and the creature. It roared a barking roar that was like a punch to the head from some strike at her psyche. or the lift shaft itself would be its only option. The lift disintegrated and shattered upward and outward. the pain was remembered too. prepared to follow its quarry. causing the pile nearest the lift to collapse towards her bringing the flames uncomfortably close. She danced hurriedly on the spot trying to delay the ignition point of her clothes.

afraid her movements might send the lift plunging into the fire below. . The floor was hot. Cat held her pose. Cat swallowed the pounding cadence that threatened to choke her as she saw the lift display flicker between the basement and ground floor. The lift creaked and groaned over the constant muffled roar of the flames burning below her and the lift cables squealed as they quivered and strained overhead holding the lifts weight.Chapter Forty 241 The lift hung perceptibly swaying on its protesting cables.

Seemingly in sickening slow-motion he watched in impotent shock as she slid into the burning shaft. It's here!" A flaming skeleton lurched up. She slapped a hand on the ground and grabbed the lift door with her other hand. To think of losing Rachel was like a jab in the gut. but fear and doubt savagely fought the hope back. ducking under the ceiling of thick smoke to drag Cat free of the heat and suffocating smoke that poured up from under the lift and around the top half of her body and into the lobby. Cat wriggled fiercely along the ground into Craig and Kelly's arms. He just wanted to get to Jason and comfort him. the car lurched violently upwards. The boy would have just sent down the second lift to the basement as they had planned. If their plan had worked then the creature had been firebombed and Cat would be making her way to their floor in the lift. Kelly lunged to the floor and Craig followed her. the creatures flesh devoured by the fire. he didn't want Jason to have his murder on his conscience for the rest of his life. As they arrived there was a deafening crack as the second lift arrived and exploded. You did the right thing. herding Jason with him. He took the crowbar out of Jason's firm grip and tucked it through a belt loop of his jeans and pulled Jason up on to his feet. It screamed in pain and anger and drew its ." Jason said for what must be the tenth time since they had stumbled upon the scene. looking for signs of a serious injury. Smoke poured out through the lift doors and an orange glow filled the car. Halfway out of the lift. Seven gashes stared intensely from raw green energy that became flame burning at the heads borders. "He was trying to stop me. Kelly pulled Jason to her side as they waited for the silent lift to arrive on their level and Craig put his arm round her. violently hacking her lungs out. crawling from within an atmosphere of thick black smoke." Craig reassured him as he helped Kelly drag the body out of the cupboard. Finished with the unconscious caretaker Kelly jogged in the direction of the lobby and Craig followed. Cat craned to looked behind her. leaving him in a stupor. watching over Kelly who checked Alec for a pulse. This was it. His wish that it was all over desperately clawed from his mind at reality. He left Kelly to finish putting him in the recovery position and stepped into the cupboard. "It's not dead. "I have a pulse. The lift gears screamed harshly as they bit into the cable and the motor recovered from the trauma of the explosion and began to pull the lift to the ground floor. He and Kelly dashed forward and crouched before her and tried to get a grip on her arms without dislodging her tenuous grip or falling in after her. Everything ached but Craig ignored it. The lift doors in the lobby rattled violently and dust and grit fell from the ceiling as the foundations of the building shook. He wanted Alec to be alive. his face blank and blanched. even if Alec had been possessed by the entity.Chapter Forty 242 Chapter Forty Eight Craig stood back from the lift maintenance cupboard with the stink of smoke hanging heavily on him. and Cat slid back towards the lift. "It's okay mate." Kelly called over her shoulder as she checked his ears and began to feel his cranium. Jason was on his haunches in the corner at the back of the cupboard. leaving only her chest and head on the ground floor. The doors shuddered open and Cat flopped onto the floor. but to have Cat safe was euphoric. The floor of the lift Car had fallen away and Cat's bottom half had slipped back after it.

Cat dragged herself off of Kelly and stood before the pried open lift doors and stared into the tumultuous orange and black shaft. she thrashed her legs and managed to get several kicks into the things face. "I can't feel it. grabbing at her reaching arms while the creature snatched at Cat and swatted at them desperate to claim its victim. Craig bit his lip and ignored each kick that Cat delivered to his shin as she tried to get the same leverage against the ground while on top of him and Kelly. The creature was receding into the green light emanating from within its burning spider-body." she announced coldly. The snatchers bone-caged mouth yawned wide and unleashed it choral howl. Smoke and air billowed out of the open lift doors as the weight slammed the creature to the bottom of the fiery shaft below them with an abrupt explosion of sound as it smashed through the lift and the creature. I can't sense it down there. Craig cursed and kicked his feet at the floor to get himself away from the lift and Kelly copied. The pain from his injured muscles and joints was hell." Epilogue: The Scattered Remains Craig watched three young lads in the black and red uniform of Hampstead School walk towards him along Haverstock Hill road. If there was a place like Hell then that lift shaft led to it. Green light spilled out. Flames flickered around its burning body like eager tongues of undulating orange light licking swathes of its flesh from its bones. into the corrosive sac where so many others had been taken to form its now dying body. 243 Cat screamed and then suddenly calmed and was taken over by an intense concentration. Craig caught a good grip of one wrist with both hands and Kelly grabbed the other and joined him in straining against the creatures tugs on Cat's legs. Seeing that she was suspended between Mr Sparky and the others and wasn't going anywhere. but seeing Cat drawn from the shaft helped him bite down against the agony. The lift groaned as the creature gripped the walls of the lift car to pull itself off the burning floor of the basement. A vertical gash appeared in the flesh under its rib cage and its abdomen parted in two. ready to impale Cat. With Cat free he allowed himself to collapse backwards with her draped on top of him and Kelly. It reeled but continued to walk its hands up her legs. The snatchers scream turned into a shriek of panic and cry of pain. A howling began to rush into the air from above as the lift cars counter weight. "Burn you fuck!" The lift doors wrenched open and spidery legs braced them apart. The creature was struck back by what must have been an invisible freight train judging by the force that took it off its feet and slammed it against the far wall of the lift. fell from the top of the high rise.Chapter Forty javelins back. the belly laugh Jason . it emerged from the spider with its hands slapping frantically at the floor. Craig grabbed Cat's wrist and although Kelly hadn't managed to get as secure a grip as he had he pulled with all his strength. carrying the snatcher with it. pulling her towards its burning host in the creaking remains of the lift. She slid helplessly along the concrete floor back to the lift with Craig Kelly and Jason all scurrying after her. "It's dead. He didn't recognise the beaming kid as Jason at first. it released Cat and desperately flailed its arms to stop its descent as it rushed back into the lift shaft after its host. The lift collapsed abruptly around the spider-creature and it and the lift dropped back into the flames. and he hacked his lungs free of smoke. no longer having anything to suspend it. it's long spindly arms reaching from its skeletal torso. Craig flopped onto his back. pulled apart like a mouth. walking itself towards Cat. He screamed from a raw throat. Taking Cat with it. as much as Craig had made Jason laugh during all the difficulties they had faced together the humour had been strained. It's over. The lift car protested under the creature's weight and with the final damage of the floor being ripped out. The lift doors shut on the creature in the furnace lift shaft. Craig felt Cat's weight suddenly shift as she was dragged off them as it attempted to do what it had failed to do on the landing the night before.

They loved each other and they had both shared their weaker sides together. Jason waved goodbye to his two companions and jogged the little distance to meet him. "We are overdue a death-match ourselves. but he didn't like to think who wore the trousers in their relationship.Chapter Forty 244 was having with his friends made him look like a different kid. "It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. "Thanks. "I am still doing the usual unreliable studio work and freelance stuff. I will have to track you down online and kick your butt again. "You were chuffed enough when you got the acceptance letter." "It was only a short story in a collection. "Haha. How's work going?" "Pretty good actually." It felt good to say it. "You're getting cheekier." "Cool. "And don't forget about being a published writer. "How are you then. They are coming round mine next Friday for an X-box night. It was strange. but she has you to comfort her. She's still a bit jittery at times. It's like starting over." Craig had spent so long struggling it was hard to take praise. but it was too soon to joke about that time. Not many from my old school going there." Jason cooed." "Are you having those dreams that you think are real again?" The kid had a good sense of humour. they're ok. you know that. Seeing Craig." The boy looked embarrassed to admit he had been nervous. because although he was sensitive about those experiences they didn't seem real anymore. so now there are a couple of calendars and some websites using my stuff and I am in talks with a gallery back in Bath." "That's not what you were saying on MSN last month." He said flatly." When Kelly had returned to Bath with him after everything that had happened he had shown her pictures he had taken since he was a kid. It was ironic that he had stayed in London to have the best chance of getting his talents recognised." Craig nodded over his shoulder. Luckily he didn't care about things like that. I know it. I'm good. "They your mates?" "Yeah. He wished they hadn't been. "How's is school going? Is it as bad as you thought it would be?" "I wasn't worried." "Yeah. Me neither. and took a short drag on his own. "You over what happened?" He shook his head at his question." The kid obviously didn't have anything to worry about after all." "Yeah. kid?" Craig handed him the small chocolate shake he had bought him from the McDonald's while he had been waiting. but when I was back home my brother got some companies to use my pictures. The woman with the truncheon was likely to win hands down any day. "Stupid question. Kelly had pointed out how good his pictures of Bath were and Darren reminded him of all the posh gallery shops there were in the town centre. Didn't you get about a thousand pounds for it? . but it was only returning home that he found a market." They walked together. Nor Kelly.

the whole thing could fall through in between now and then. "Not really. He hoped for Jason's sake that his mum didn't make a clean break of things. It felt good to be part of a family. He wasn't going to admit that to Jason though. but he had read since then that the form of a spider was a Jungian archetype." He laughed. She still seems tweaked too." After what had happened Kelly managed to extend her break from work and she had stayed with him back home." He wasn't sure why the thing had chosen a spider body." Jason looked up at Craig with arched eyebrows. Give me the shake back. plus Craig couldn't take today being too heavy. he remembered how disruptive such moves had been to him at school and with making friends. "Er." "She has taken it all pretty hard. and no one knew about that. I am proud of it. She says it's got too many memories. she had loved Bath and she had said she wanted them to seriously consider moving out of London when she had sold her flat. He didn't want that. but if she's as tough as she acts she will be okay. She wants to move to a different part of London. Got some sickness thing. Even if you were to buy me some fries next time it would be fine by me. "I guess were all gonna be scared of the dark for sometime now." It was easy to forget that the only thing that bridged the age gap and connected them was what had happened to them. She thinks its stress from losing granddad and all the trouble she's having selling the flat. "I get the thousand when it has gone to print. His career seemed to be going well. Have you heard from Cat?" Jason took a drag on his shake. but it had been pretty miserable. maybe even the countryside!" "Really? That's a big change. "You okay with that?" Jason's shoulders dropped and he cast his eyes down on his shake and toyed with the straw. "You want to grab a . I don't want to move into the country.Chapter Forty 245 "Yeah. and being home hadn't been as bad as he had thought. He could feel the direction of their conversation and his thoughts slipping back to what had happened." "Not to mention having a serious phobia of spiders. but he had already asked him online a little while ago and he said he was doing okay. "She's not happy at granddad's place. but it does look pretty promising. He was a cheeky fucker. Craig had experienced his old reluctance at giving up on his London life." Not to mention his mum having to watch her best friend lose her kids one after the other. "Your mum okay?" he blurted. then lose her mind and consequently her husband too. but it was Kelly that made him most happy. "Only on MSN. Maybe the entity played on that fear." Craig gave him a little shove. she keeps being sick all the time. "Good point. I don't have any problems. something that was commonly thought of as evil and to be feared across different cultures. The last thing he needed was to look like he was grooming Jason. "Hey. She hasn't been very well." Craig thought about asking how Jason was after Rachel's funeral. So I played the 'But I have just started a new school' card and she agreed to think about it more. texts and X-box death matches are one thing but telling her you met me from school and bought me a shake? I think not. It was actually nice to have mum fuss over him and it had been great to have a few drinks with Darren. She was even going on about getting out of the city. "Sorry to hear that buddy. Say 'hello' to her." Craig felt himself flush. Craig remembered Kelly was trying to get away from her association with being the ready meal cook and cook something from scratch tonight. says she hasn't been like it since she was pregnant with me.

it didn't have the tenderness of first love or the staleness she associated with marriage but they ached for each others bodies and it was exciting and fun. She was keen to get a new place with Craig and start their lives over again. They had become lovers straight away." Kelly paced backwards and forwards in the small and cluttered lounge while she waited the two minutes out. So many had died at The Heights. She dwelled for a moment on the thought of Rachel. She hadn't seen her fall. it wasn't worth unpacking. but the media had moved on. it was the same look she had seen on Craig's and Cat's face on the three occasions they had met for a drink in the last two months and talked about The Heights. The novel wasn't a direct retelling of what they had experienced. Every room had towering stacks of boxes from Kelly and Craig's old places. and he steered the boy towards Kentish Town. But what if. One minute? She listened to her watch tick. and so had the topic of talk for the locals. . Craig didn't think he could do that. and she didn't want to get comfortable. She had never felt so safe." "Did you know that film is twice my age?" "Shut up. to destroy demons physical and spiritual. They were compatible she reminded herself. She surveyed the mess and longed for the call that would tell her that her flat was sold and they could move out of their rented one. She sucked in a deep breath and busied herself in tidying up after Craig. Jason and Rachel had had to change. One minute. consumed and transformed by that thing.Chapter Forty 246 bite now? My treat. The last three months had changed things in a way Kelly had never thought possible. There was none of the desperation she had felt in marriage. It was a passion she hadn't felt in a long time. He hadn't told his family yet but he had two other short stories being considered for publishing and he was half-way through a rough draft for a novel. "Actually I was thinking that I can do much better than fries when we catch up again. It hadn't stopped. Craig's future looked good. Craig." Jason nodded. No. Cat. to do things they had never thought themselves capable of. She had been Miss Sensible and made them have the conversations about the age-gap about what they wanted from life. but she had seen her body in the dirt and flames. you and Kelly need an education in all that is good about Star Wars so I thought as Cat is a fan we could all have a bit of a reunion over popcorn or something. Kelly. One minute and thirty seconds. Star Wars is playing at the 02 in Finchley Road as part of their classics series. It was difficult having experiences that no one else would entertain outside of fiction. It was about Vicki. She checked her watch.. she would reach for him or more often than that he would reach for her. They wanted the same things. He was pouring himself into his computer hour upon hour. How many horror novels had been inspired by real experiences? Maybe the genre itself was born from trying to get the weird and the frightening accepted and believed. She caught sight of her reflection in a mirror propped against a wall and was startled by her haunted look. Some of the other residents at the tower would have their own stories. She no longer had the empty hunger for love and affection.. he didn't want to be seen as profiteering from the tragedy but his works were definitely inspired by those events. to stand up to nightmares. The short story he was getting published was about losing someone and the burden of being the only one to miss them and keep them alive in memory. She topped herself. It was probably cathartic.

"I'm sorry. but Kelly wondered whether the magical influence that Rachel had suggested. Cat removed the dried flowers from the railing and they crumbled in her grip. There was a hole in the community there. Perhaps some of the teenagers that had survived the flats and knew the truth were finding their own way to spread it and keep it alive in people's memory. The urge to move on seemed to have infected a lot of the residents of the tower." The tower served Rachel's memory well. Graffiti had begun to weave its way onto the walls like weeds crawling out from behind the dying and diseased looking holly bushes quicker than they could be whited out. If you went into a local estate agent you could practically pick the floor of your choice and the direction you would like to face there were so many flats for sale in the building. She wanted to be sick. She tied a fresh bunch in their place and a bitter wind wracked them. but she was also haunted by the relationship she could have had with Rachel. had dissipated and the significance of 'three' no longer needed to be preserved within the landscape. stark and grey. She had negotiated a couple of month's extension of her course because of the trauma's she had experienced and planned to go back after Christmas. She wanted to fill her life up. She had beaten back the life that had once possessed it. "I'm sorry. but it was just concrete and glass now. It was the least she could do. She would be so proud. She couldn't face going back there to live after they had killed the thing in the basement. Thirty seconds. The tower loomed above her. Maybe Camden would get its own urban legend. Kelly smiled at herself. The tower had the feeling of decline. that she thought of her? She wished her love for Rachel had been stronger than her anger for her mum's death. She wasn't the only one that had wanted to get away from the tower. She felt a fear . Two more months and the real grave stone would be ready. most of the familiar neighbours at The Heights had gone. Kelly had heard rumours that The Heights were no longer being considered for the protection of becoming listed.Chapter Forty 247 The last time her patrol car had taken her past the flats she had seen a ten foot graffiti mural of a death-like undertaker sprayed on a patch of the ground floor wall. Kelly rarely saw people she recognised from the flats. It looked more drab than she remembered. making each ridge in the moulding look like a bared rib on an emaciated body. She was staying at Rachel's flat and was looking for a place where she couldn't see The Heights on the horizon. Maybe it wouldn't make such a good memorial after all. Cat had gotten her ashes interred with her mum and a new stone engraved for them both. When she returned to The Heights she worried about the strength of that barrier. dark stains from weathering and pollution ran from ledges and orifices. Now she just had to tell Craig that she was pregnant. Rachel lived on in her. She returned to the bathroom and peered at the plastic stick that sat on the toilet cistern. She checked her watch. The two minutes were up. She didn't really know what she wanted by coming to The Heights. She treated it like a bad memory and walled it up in her head as she had done with so many other things and she left it alone. if she was still there. flapping the leaves and prying at the delicate petals. She had even made the effort with work colleagues and was waiting for there to be a night out planned so that she could make herself go to it. each window looking like an eye in a sunken socket. She didn't know how long she would keep up these visits. Possibly because of the negative associations. It seemed she was not alone in wanting to move on and find somewhere new to rebuild. Two words were all Cat would have had to have said in those precious few moments before going down into the basement. Too many people were gone. Rachel could have eased her grief." She said to the flowers. As epitaphs went The Heights were pretty impressive ones. To prove to Rachel. Away from the tower it had been easier to force back whatever it was that the thing had left in her mind. There were too many questions that demanded answers for people to feel comfortable living there again. Somewhere closer to university. Not only was she haunted by the relationship she had lost with her mum. The building looked sick. Kelly had changed in so many ways now. Too much had happened. She didn't know if it was anxiety or the nausea she had been feeling for weeks.

"Not surprising really after everything that happened. a mantra that she had already followed in her own actions. when those kinds of things happen it gives you itchy feet. Give the kids a nicer neighbourhood away from all this. The girl leaned forward conspiratorially and spoke with a knowing tone of a shared secret. and again they were not her feelings. She hadn't had sex for nearly a year. Several of the girl's words anchored themselves in Cat's head. Having secured her flowers she decided to give into the anxious urgings. 'run. Comfort I guess. It had been bloated for a month now. at the small rise of her tummy against the material of her tee-shirt. It wasn't her fear. Except now she wasn't sure that there might be an alternative more subconscious motive. After everything that we have lived through we need a new start somewhere else. The girl continued.' 'escape.'SOMEWHERE ELSE'. She turned and ran. It was ridiculous.' 'NEW START' -. She ignored the feeling as much as she could even though it shaped her thoughts. It's a regular baby-boom. a secret side to her psyche that contradicted her relief at overcoming the evil. she knew that somehow the feelings came from the part of her mind she dare not go. They say it happens in times of stress.' 'new start' -. . To get away from everything that had happened. Go home. People get down to it." She rolled her yes in an impression of bliss. The girl walked as if she was pregnant and as she stood back from her struggle and blew out a sigh she saw she was showing through her top. Cat couldn't escape the girls earlier words. She looked down at herself.Chapter Forty 248 and anxiety. the only thing she had any reason to fear and flee had been blown to pieces and crushed and then those remains burned into ash in the inferno that had raged in the basement. The girl thanked her and Cat nodded acceptance.NEW START -. Leave. Now she did laugh. The door to the tower opened and a woman struggled through with a double-pushchair. "A lot of people are in the family way at the moment.SOMEWHERE ELSE." "I know what you mean. which although she guessed was natural at returning to a place where there had been so much danger and loss. Despite winning the battle there was something within her that was bitter and defeated. RUN -." She faced Cat.'somewhere else'. She had missed a couple of periods." She smiled as friendly as she could. The haggard looking twenty-something cast her eyes back at the building "Lots of people are moving out. "You three months gone too?" Cat smiled and laughed. and Kelly was now three months pregnant. No. 'RUN. Cat skipped up the steps and held the door open and guided her wide load through. but it died in her throat as she realised the girl was commenting on the way she was rubbing her tummy. She had been nauseous. They played in her mind in a mantra she couldn't stop.' 'ESCAPE. She wanted to be sick." She smiled and pulled a large brightly coloured children's carry-all into a better position on her shoulder." "Itchy? My feet want to run! I can't wait to escape from our cramped two bedroom place what with baby on the way. She wasn't pregnant. "I moved out.ESCAPE -." Craig and Kelly had been brought together by what happened. but her hasty retreat was halted by the girl calling out after her. LEAVE NOW! It was ridiculous. Me and mine are off soon. "Haven't seen you about for a while. She recognised her but didn't know her.

like a cuckoo or a parasite it had left its young behind with people and families that would instinctively protect them. ### What did you think? Thank you for taking the time to read this title. How many of those women were pregnant? They had been right about the thing's motive. but it hadn't come from her mind. A free ebook from http://manybooks. Your opinion on this title is important to me! Drop by my website and click on the rate it link and share your opinion with me and others. nurseries. She understood it. they would grow up in new neighbourhoods and communities. It would no longer be vulnerable from being concentrated in one place. Somehow.net/ . Thank you. In hospitals. colleges -. it did want to consume and grow.Chapter Forty 249 She could hear the mantra clearly now. Hiding in the children like it hid in Cat's mind. Then the disappearances would begin. Craig and Kelly with their baby. schools. but would be spread out across the city and maybe beyond. Jason and his mum. it had come from the thing in her head. Or just click on the me link if you want to find out a bit about me or read my blog.they would find the perfect breeding grounds. While you are at my site leaving feedback check out my other titles under the read it link or go to the pass it on link for suggestions on how you could help me promote my work. all the residents that had left or were leaving had on some level heard or felt that same an urge to leave.

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