"Detective Lottie is at her best… twists and turns that had you on edge of your seat it’s the best book yet and I’m looking forward for more." ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Daily Life
Bubbles of cold sweat trickled down Faye’s spine. The hole wasn’t empty. Before she could turn and run, she caught the two sightless eyes staring up at her. Only then did she scream.
When Faye Baker discovers a fragile child’s skull behind the walls of her new home, Detective Lottie Parker is called to investigate. The house has been owned for years by the family of Faye’s boyfriend Jeff, so when Jeff starts acting suspiciously, Lottie wonders what he might be hiding…
Lottie doesn’t have long to dig deeper before a child’s bones are found by eleven-year-old Gavin on nearby railway tracks. The bones don’t match the small skull behind the walls, but Lottie can’t ignore the coincidence. Someone out there must be missing their loved ones and it’s up to her to put right a terrible wrong.
Unable to shake a feeling of foreboding, Lottie goes to speak to Faye, and discovers that she hasn’t turned up for work. When Faye’s body is found stuffed in the back of her car, Lottie needs to find out who wanted her to keep quiet.
As Lottie hunts for Faye’s killer, the case takes a darker turn when Gavin goes missing. Faye and Gavin are connected only by the grisly body parts they discovered. But who are these little victims and why has their killer come back? Can Lottie find the answers before another precious life is taken?
This thrilling new novel from bestselling author Patricia Gibney will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. If you like Lisa Regan, Robert Dugoni and Rachel Caine, you’ll love Buried Angels.
What everyone is saying about Buried Angels:
" Well this book has certainly given me back my reading mojo. It is simply brilliant. I devoured this book in a day and honestly couldn’t put it down. This is possibly one of my favourite Lottie Parker books ." Goodreads Reviewer, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
" Patricia really knows how to spin a tale! Addictive page turner. So many heart stopping moments. This one left me speechless. " Goodreads Reviewer, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
"‘Detective Lottie is at her best… twists and turns that had you on edge of your seat it’s the best book yet and I’m looking forward for more.’ Daily Life, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
"Gripping and totally compulsive ...100% the best yet !! This is book eight of the wonderful D.I. Lottie Parker series set in Ragmullin, Ireland and oh boy it a real humdinger of a read and my favourite one of the series so far… Well we have one heck of a fantastic mystery going on with lots of twists, more murders, frozen body parts OMG it’s all happening here !! I love Lottie Parker she really is an amazing character." Goodreads Reviewer, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
"I can’t give enough praise to Patricia Gibney for an exceptional read that was so well written and for continuing to please with this brilliant 5 star series, long may it continue and roll on book nine." Goodreads Reviewer, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
" Another brilliant book in the Lottie Parker series. It was a gripping storyline that I couldn't put down so read it in two sittings." Netgalley Reviewer, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
" I couldn’t wait for this book to be released, I had to know what was happening with Boyd! I have to say I really do feel like part of the team, after reading all of the titles in order. This one did not disappoint. I was convinced I knew who the killer was, there were so many twists and turns. Turns out I was wrong!! Fantastic book from PG, I can’t wait for number 9!" Netgalley Reviewer, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
"It's a fast paced and un-put-downable story. Some people are in the wrong place at the wrong time and interwoven are old cases from before Lottie's time in the force. A must read. " Beauty Balm, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Release date: May 26, 2020
Print pages: 422
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Afterwards, the detective would say he had never seen anything like it in all his years on the force.
‘Stand back.’ He held out his hand, preventing the young garda from entering. ‘I’ll take a look first. You wait outside.’
‘But nothing. If you don’t want your breakfast mingling with the blood on the floor, you’ll do as you’re told. You hear me?’
Once he was free of his charge, the detective closed the door behind him. The coppery tang held the air hostage. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, inhaled a deep breath, pinched his nose between thumb and forefinger and walked through the kitchen, paying no heed to the orange Formica cupboards or the broken dishes on the floor. Pieces of crockery crunched beneath his boots. Out of the kitchen to the hallway. Small and compact. Coats draped on the banister; the cupboard door under the stairs hanging off its hinges; footprints in blood on the tiles. With one gloved finger, he pushed at the door to his left and stepped inside.
The couch on its side. A bare foot sticking out from behind it, shielded by a flat brown cushion. Gulping down a large swallow of acrid mucus, he moved cautiously around the furniture without touching anything. Involuntarily he slapped his hand against his mouth as he looked down at the woman on the floor. Blood had dried on her face and throat and pooled to a brown stain on the carpet. He reckoned she was at least twenty-four hours past the time when anything bordering on an attempt at resuscitation could be made. The fetid air clogged his nostrils and narrowed his throat, but still he tasted the decay on his tongue.
Retreating from the room, he stood in the hall, the sound of his breathing breaking the silence. Staring upwards, he listened to the drip of a tap somewhere above his head.
The bottom stair creaked under his weight. When he reached the last step, it too creaked. He stood onto the small square landing. Four doors. All closed. His heart thumped so hard against his ribs he was sure it was trying to escape its bony enclosure. His mouth dried up and his nose became blocked, and he found it hard to breathe despite the thunder in his chest.
The door was old. Brass knobs. Steel hinges. Loose nails. He twisted the nearest handle to him and pushed the door inwards.
Green tiles. Yellowed bath. White ceramic toilet bowl and sink. A mishmash of colour. A whiff of bleach, no blood. He exhaled slowly and backed out of the room. He sniffed at the stale air of the landing before twisting the handle of the next door. It rattled. Then opened.
The change in odour was seismic. Brutal copper assaulted his struggling airways. He closed his eyes, blinding himself to the scene before him. But it was useless. Forever more, when he laid his head on a pillow, the enduring image would be an abattoir of human blood. His dreams would become nightmares and he would never again sleep peacefully.
Pre-teenage babies, he thought. How could someone do this?
Two girls clothed in unmatched pink and yellow pyjamas. One of them had one bare foot, the other sheathed in a fleece sock, half on, half off; her leg outstretched as if she had been trying to flee. The second girl was over by the window, her hand similarly outstretched seeking escape, her mouth frozen in a silent scream. The curtains shielded the tightly shut sash window.
He remained frozen in his footsteps. There was nothing to be gained by walking further inside. He did not want to disturb the crime scene. The killer had long since carried out this vicious attack and fled. Or else …
The detective froze. Was the killer behind one of the other doors?
He backed out of the room, turned to the third door and eased his hand towards his shoulder holster. The thought of shooting dead the author of this devastation fuelled him with adrenaline.
‘I’m coming in,’ he warned, though he wasn’t sure he said it loudly enough to alert anyone who might be inside.
The room was another bedroom. Indiscriminately coloured bedding and two pillows lay on the floor. The sheet on the bed had a pool of damp in the centre. He was certain it wasn’t blood. More than likely whoever had been sleeping here had wet the bed. One of the girls? Had they been awakened by the noise of the intruder? Was this the master bedroom? he wondered, as his white-faced reflection stared at him from the mirror on the wardrobe door.
The window hung open and a curtain fluttered back into the room from the breeze. He knew he shouldn’t venture in further, but he had to be sure. Kneeling, he glanced under the bed. A dusty suitcase and a pair of suede slippers. He stood again and noticed a door to his right. An en suite? He crept over, unsure why he was fearful of making noise. He had declared his presence. He had a gun in his hand. What had he to fear?
The door hung on two hinges; the third was busted. Behind it, a shower with an old-fashioned plastic curtain, and a small toilet. The room was empty.
Three bodies. Mother and two daughters? Was there a father, husband or partner? If so, where was he? Had he carried out this brutal attack on his family before escaping?
He backed out of the room and glanced into the last room. A single bed. A free-standing wardrobe against one wall, a small cabinet with an unlit lamp beside the bed. A narrow window with lightweight flowered cotton curtains. Light streamed through the slit, casting a cone of dust motes through the centre of the tiny room.
He hurried down the stairs and rushed outside. Bending over, hands on knees, he gulped in fresh air and attempted to keep his breakfast in his stomach.
‘What did you find?’ his uniformed colleague asked.
‘A mother and two kids. Girls. Dead, all dead.’ He gasped for air, trying desperately to rid himself of the stench of death; of the images indelibly etched behind his eyes.
‘Yeah. I didn’t come across their father. Not yet. The bastard.’
‘Did you say two kids?’
‘For feck’s sake, are you bloody deaf? Why do you keep repeating it?’
‘I’m not sure … I thought the report said …’ The garda fumbled in his jacket pocket for his notebook. Flipped over the pages. ‘There should be three kids.’
The detective stood up straight and wiped his brow with trembling fingers. As he searched his pocket for cigarettes, he said, ‘So where the hell is the third one?’
Slowly they lowered the coffin into the soft earth.
A cry, more like a melancholic sigh, rose into the air. Lottie Parker glanced to her right. Grace Boyd, glassy-eyed, was facing straight ahead, her face smeared with tears. One hand was at her mouth as she chewed at her fingernails. A dribble from her nose rested on her upper lip, and Lottie longed to take a tissue and wipe it clean. But she remained stock still, rigid.
Though it was the last week of May, the Atlantic Ocean blew a tornado of cold air in over the west coast, ripping through Lottie’s light summer jacket. The hilltop graveyard was open to the elements; its tall Celtic crosses stippled in green moss; one even had seashells embedded in its uppermost point. The sparse trees were bending in supplication to the wind. The bushes of purple heather ruffled sharp fronds against the noses of the mountain goats nuzzling the bog cotton. It could be an idyllic scene if not for the sadness.
The priest sprinkled holy water into the six-foot hole where the coffin now lay. He directed the chief mourners to do the same. For a moment Lottie was all alone as the others moved forward. With a small shovel they dug into the mound of earth and let the clay fall on the wooden box with its brass cross. Grace lingered, then picked a lily from the floral wreath and let it drop down, down into the depths of the gaping earth, its white petals bringing light to the darkness below.
Another sharp breeze rolled up from the sea. Lottie shivered, memories of her husband Adam’s funeral laid bare and raw. The smell of lilies, so potent, clogged her nostrils and her hand flew to her mouth, covering her nose. But she did not shed a tear. Enough tears had gushed from the depths of her being over the years, and she had no more left to share.
‘In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit …’ The priest concluded the prayers and Lottie stepped back to allow the steady stream of locals to offer their condolences to the family.
Standing at the thorny hedge of blackberries that marked the boundary on the cliff side, she let the ocean breeze whip her face, welcoming the touch of nature. She had no idea how long she stood there before she sensed approaching footsteps in the soft grass behind her. She didn’t turn around, her eyes fixed on the vastness of the water, with its hazy horizon in the distance. She wished for a moment that she could be carried silently on the crest of a whitecap wave to somewhere far away from where she now stood.
When she felt the hand slip into hers and squeeze her fingers, she turned. With the other arm tightly around the shoulders of his sister, Boyd rested his head on her shoulder.
‘A fine send-off for Mam,’ he said. ‘It’s over now, Lottie.’
She feathered his forehead with a tender kiss.
‘No, Boyd, it’s only just begun.’
Grace Boyd sat huddled in the corner of the snug, a forlorn figure, unnaturally quiet, still biting her nails.
‘I don’t know what to do about Grace,’ Boyd whispered to Lottie when she appeared carrying two glasses of sparkling water. He took one from her before her elbow could be jostled by the swelling crowd in the pub.
‘Come outside,’ she said.
Out in the sunshine, she inhaled the fresh sea air. ‘Leenane is beautiful. This is where they filmed The Field, isn’t it?’
‘Yes. Mam has … had Richard Harris’s photograph hanging on the living room wall.’
‘I don’t know what to say, Boyd.’ Despite having suffered so much grief in her own life, Lottie found she had no idea how to react to someone else’s.
‘Tell me what to do about Grace.’
She pulled out a chair from a wooden table splattered with bird dirt and pointed for Boyd to sit. She leaned against the table as he brushed at the chair with his hand.
‘It’s a difficult one,’ she said. ‘Grace has lived all her life with your mother. Living alone will be a major change for her.’
‘That’s the point.’ He sipped his pint. ‘I don’t think she can live alone.’
Lottie eyed his drink. ‘Where did you get that?’
‘It is a bar, Lottie.’
‘You shouldn’t be drinking while on treatment.’
Boyd had been diagnosed with a mild form of leukaemia over six months previously, and though he was doing well and his treatment had been reduced, his health was a constant worry. His immune system was weak and he was susceptible to infection. She was worried that the stress of his mother’s death would harm his recovery.
‘My doctor said I can have the odd drink,’ he said petulantly. ‘Stop nagging.’ He lowered his head. ‘Grace tries to be independent, but we know she can’t be left to her own devices. She needs someone to watch out for her.’
Lottie put out a hand and lifted his chin, looking into his sad hazel eyes. ‘Your mam was great, and she’ll be missed. It’s a shock for you all. Especially for Grace.’ Then she said the words she knew he wanted to hear. ‘Maybe you should bring her with you back to Ragmullin.’
‘I’ll have to evict Kirby.’ Boyd smiled wryly.
‘It’s high time he found his own place anyway, and if my half-brother Leo comes through with the money on Farranstown House, we can buy somewhere together and Grace can live with us.’
She thought of the wrangling back and forth with solicitors over legal documents, none of which she understood. She just wanted to sign and get the money, but things were never that simple. Leo Belfield had appeared in her life following a difficult case in which her true family heritage had been revealed. She was still trying to come to terms with it.
Boyd eyed her over the rim of his pint glass. ‘You’d do that for me?’
‘You know I’d do anything for you.’
‘You sound like something out of a romance novel.’
‘You read them, do you?’
‘Smart arse,’ he said with a smile, the first time she’d seen that glint of devilment in his eye in a long time.
He put down the glass and wrapped his hand around hers. She felt the warmth of his touch seep through her skin and into her bloodstream. She gazed out across the sparkling water in the bay to the lush green vegetation on the sides of the mountains that guarded the inlet.
‘I know you’re ill, Boyd, but you make me so very happy.’
A crash and the tinkle of breaking glass reached them from inside the pub. A second of stunned silence paused the mumble of chatter before a scream pierced the air.
‘That’s Grace,’ said Boyd as he got up from the chair, but Lottie was already through the door, where she was greeted by pandemonium.
A semicircle of sweaty bodies had formed in one corner of the sweltering pub. She elbowed her way through the three-deep ensemble. Curled up on the bench, knees clutched to her chest, Grace Boyd cried and sobbed, her hair wild and her arms scratched.
‘All of you, stay away from me,’ she snarled through gritted teeth.
‘Hey, Grace, why don’t you come outside with me?’ Lottie said as she reached the distraught and dishevelled young woman.
‘I only asked her where she’d live,’ one man said. ‘She lost the plot when I—’
‘Give her a break,’ another interrupted.
Lottie had heard enough. She needed to calmly extricate Grace from the melee.
‘Stand back. Give her some air. Fetch a glass of water.’ She stared at the crowd. ‘Now.’
At last the gathering dispersed and someone thrust a pint glass of water into her hand. She slid onto the bench next to Grace.
‘Sip this. It will help cool you down.’
She was surprised when the other woman took the glass and gulped a mouthful, without raising her eyes.
‘Don’t mind what any of them are saying. What do men know about grief, eh?’
Grace began to hiccup.
‘Slowly. Just sips. Come on.’
‘I’m not a child.’ Anger flashed in her eyes.
‘Do you want to come outside? Mark’s out there. Maybe you can tell him what’s wrong.’
‘He doesn’t get me, Lottie. No one does. Not even you.’ Grace wiped her nose with the back of her hand, childlike.
‘I have a fair bit of experience with my own gang; why don’t you try me?’
Grace shook her head and handed back the glass. ‘I want to go home. Can you bring me?’
‘Sure I can.’ Lottie handed her a napkin from the table. ‘Dry your eyes and let’s get out of here.’
Grace stood and wiped her face. She scrunched the napkin and stuffed it into her handbag. ‘I like you, Lottie, and I’m glad you’re sticking with my brother.’
‘That’s sweet of you, but listen to me. I’m here for you too.’
‘But my mam … I’m going to miss her so much. Can you understand that?’
‘I lost my husband, so yes, I understand it better than you can ever know. Now let’s get the hell out of here.’
‘I’d love a plate of bacon and cabbage. Do you think you could cook that?’
Lottie groaned inwardly. Culinary expertise was not on her talent list. Grace was craving something her mother had cooked. Something to keep her alive in her mind.
‘Where was your mother’s favourite place to visit?’
‘The Twelve Pins.’
‘Well then, that’s where we’re going.’
‘You’re so good, Lottie.’ Grace sniffed. ‘Thank you.’
The lump in Lottie’s throat bulged. She found it difficult to be this sympathetic with her own kids, so how was it she could mother this thirty-something-year-old woman? Unable to find the answer, she walked over to Boyd, who was standing by the door.
‘You know the way?’
‘Yes, boss.’ He winked at Grace, whose face broke into a sad smile.
‘And then I have to head back to Ragmullin,’ Lottie said. Lowering her voice, she whispered in Boyd’s ear, ‘With or without you.’
The three-bedroom 1950s detached house with a square patch of overgrown grass and a cracked path up to the front door was the second in a line of ten houses. Someone had constructed a ramp and a rail to the side of the two front steps. Jeff’s aunt, Patsy Cole, had only been sixty when she’d died in bed here two years ago, but that didn’t worry Faye. She didn’t believe in spirits or ghosts. She was happy. At last they had a place to call their own. Once they had it renovated and decorated, she would be able to escape from their tiny apartment. She rubbed her hand over her white cotton shirt and with a thrill of excitement felt the as yet invisible bump beneath it.
The key turned easily in the lock. She shoved open the door and stepped onto the grey linoleum with its discoloured lines down either side from Patsy’s wheelchair. That would have to go, she thought as she moved into the living room.
The fireplace was on the wall across from her. Tiger-striped tiles around the broken grate and smoke residue on the flowery wallpaper. Jeff had already taken a lot of the furniture to the recycling centre, and most of the rubbish had gone to the dump. There wasn’t even anything worthy of bringing to a charity shop. All that remained of the furniture in this room was an old armchair and the threadbare orange carpet.
Faye paused at the window. She touched her stomach again and smiled. Their very own place. She looked around and decided that the first thing to go would be the wallpaper. It was garish and faded, blackened and torn, and it made the room look smaller than it actually was. They planned to knock down the wall dividing the living room from the kitchen. She tried to envisage an open-plan area, but standing here with the three-bulb light fitting whispering over her hair, she wondered if that would even work. It really was very small.
From a miniature toolkit she extracted a paint scraper, then filled a plastic basin with yellow water from the kitchen tap and began to dampen the wallpaper in the corner by the window. At first she moved slowly, fearful of nicking the plaster beneath, but then she felt an adrenaline rush forcing her to rid every wall of the hideous paper, and within an hour she was over by the fireplace. Her feet were surrounded by scraps of damp, mouldy wallpaper, which stuck to her jeans and white Converse shoes. She didn’t care.
The paper to the left of the fireplace came away more easily than any other area. She used her fingers to pull and tug, and it ripped off in one long strip. With the paint scraper, she tapped the plaster. It sounded hollow. She knocked on the wall to the right of it. Solid.
She stepped back and regarded the wall. The plaster on the two sections appeared different. One was fresher than the other. She wondered why this was so. Then she remembered Jeff saying that there used to be a stove-like range in this room, but that his uncle had taken it out and installed a fireplace before he’d built on the back kitchen. She knew then that the extension had to go. The roof was flat and leaking.
She sighed at the amount of work they had to do. They’d agreed to carry out the upgrade themselves. It’ll be cheaper, Jeff had said, and we’re in no hurry. But she was. She wanted to move in before the baby arrived. That gave them less than six months. Maybe if they knocked out this piece here, she thought, they’d have a nice alcove. She could get IKEA shelving. It would go well with the woodchip burner she’d already picked out. A trickle of excitement built up in her chest.
In the kitchen, she found Jeff’s larger toolbox. She picked up the lump hammer and went back to the living room. Now or never, she thought, and swung the hammer at the centre of the plaster. Soon she was covered in grime. A weave of dust motes swam in front of her eyes. She should have put on the goggles. Taking a step back to admire her handiwork, she sighed. She’d only made a small hole, even though she felt like she’d been hammering for hours.
With her fingers, she tugged at the plasterboard, trying to draw it away from the wall. At last it came away in her hand. A bigger hole opened up beside the old tiled fireplace. Maybe Jeff’s uncle and aunt had left a time capsule inside, she thought. That would be exciting.
Suddenly the tiny hairs stood up on the back of her neck beneath her scrunched-up ponytail. Maybe this wall was never meant to come down.
Trying to shrug off the weird feeling gripping her, she picked up the hammer again and thumped the wall with all her strength. The plaster cracked and tore and fell apart. Coughing and spluttering, she swatted her hands around, attempting to clear the air, praying the dust wouldn’t damage the baby growing in her womb.
When the last motes had shimmered away, she stepped forward and squinted into the dark space. A tsunami of dread shook her whole body, her teeth chattered, and bubbles of cold sweat trickled down her spine.
The hole wasn’t empty.
She gasped and leapt backwards as the thing in the wall came crashing out, landing at her feet. Two sightless eyes stared up at her.
Only then did she scream.
Lottie awoke with her grandson fast asleep beside her. When she’d returned from Galway last night, he’d been crying in Katie’s arms.
‘He has me wrecked, Mam,’ Katie had said, her voice as frazzled as the little boy’s whimpers. ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with him.’
‘He could be cutting his back teeth.’ Lottie dropped her overnight bag behind the couch and took Louis from her daughter. ‘What’s the matter, little man? Did you miss your nana?’
She was rewarded with another loud cry.
‘I gave him a spoon of Calpol half an hour ago,’ Katie said, ‘but it made no difference.’
‘You need to have patience with him.’ Lottie cradled the boy on her lap and soothed him with kisses in his soft hair. ‘Go on to bed. I’ll mind him.’
‘You’ve work in the morning. I don’t want you blaming me if he keeps you up half the night.’
‘I won’t blame you,’ Lottie said.
Now she was awake with a headache and she was going to be late for work. She eased out from under the warm duvet and took a quick shower. She pulled on her black jeans and a white long-sleeved T-shirt. It would save her having to apply sun lotion if her work took her outdoors today.
Louis stirred, turned over, and, with his thumb in his mouth, slept on soundly. She would have to wake Katie. Tiptoeing across the landing, she tapped on the door and looked in. Her daughter’s long black hair fanned out over the pillow, which moved with each breath she took.
‘Katie? Hun, you need to wake up.’ She brushed her fingers over the girl’s bare shoulder and shook her gently.
‘Ugh? What? What time is it?’
‘Early, but I’m late for work.’
‘Knew you’d blame me.’
‘I never said a word about you. Louis is asleep in my bed. Go and lie with him. He seems rested. I think he’s just teething.’
‘Yeah, yeah.’ Katie threw back the duvet and stumped across to Lottie’s room.
At Sean’s door, she rapped more loudly. ‘Sean. School time.’
‘Yeah, yeah,’ her sixteen-year-old son said, an imitation of Katie’s words a moment ago. ‘I’m awake.’
She hesitated at the third door. Eighteen-year-old Chloe had dropped out of school. No amount of cajoling, bribery or rows had worked, and what with having to deal with Boyd’s illness and Sean’s bad moods, Lottie had given in. Chloe worked full-time in Fallon’s pub and it seemed to suit her. But come September, Lottie was adamant her daughter was going to finish her education.
She moved away without knocking and went down the stairs to snatch a slice of toast to chew in the car.
She hoped it would be a quiet week.
The drone was great fun. It whizzed along at such speed, the boys found it hard to keep up. Jack Sheridan was delighted with the images displayed on his phone attached to the controller. They were clearer than the Mediterranean Sea in high summer. He knew all about that because he’d been to Majorca last year on his holidays. His friend Gavin Robinson, on the other hand, had only gone to Connemara.
‘Does your mam really believe we’re using the drone for a school project?’ Gavin said.
‘Course she does. My mam believes everything I say. Doesn’t yours?’
‘Are you joking? I get grilled more than the rashers every single morning.’
Jack laughed. ‘As long as you don’t tell her where we go before school, we should be okay.’
‘Well, I’m twelve next month,’ Gavin said, ‘and I’m going to ask her for a drone for my present.’
From the bridge over the railway track, Jack glanced back at the town lying low in a dip behind him, the cathedral spires standing guard like they were protecting Ragmullin from evil monsters. Jack had heard his father talk about evil monsters and he’d had plenty of warnings about not talking to strangers. Did they think he was five years old or something? Monsters were only a figment of the imagination.
The sun was rising quickly in the sky and Jack knew today would be as warm as yesterday. He slipped off his jacket and balled it into his school bag before hefting the rucksack onto his back. Then he turned his attention to the tracks below.
‘Will we do the canal or the railway?’ he said.
Gavin was already climbing down the shallow steps at the side of the bridge. ‘We did the canal the other day. I thought we agreed we’d do the tracks today?’
‘Yeah, but I don’t want the poxy commuter train slamming into Jedi.’ He’d had a competition among their friends to name the drone. Now that he thought about it, he realised it wasn’t really a competition because there was no prize, and anyhow, he’d chosen the name himself.
‘The early train’s long gone,’ Gavin said, ‘and the next one’s not for an hour. Come on.’
Jack made his way down the steps after his friend. He had to admit that for eleven years old, Gavin talked like a grown-up at times. It got on Jack’s nerves and he often thought of finding a new best friend, but Gavin knew about things he didn’t, like the train timetable, so it was good to have him around.
He made sure the camera was working on the drone, checked the SD card was in place to record, steadied the controller, and set Jedi off down the tracks.
‘Don’t let it fly around that bend,’ Gavin roared. ‘Stop it now, dickhead. It’s going to disappear. We’ll never find it.’
‘I’m looking at it on the phone screen, dope.’ Jack ran ahead of his friend, keeping one eye on the screen and the other on Jedi as it skirted a blackberry bush and disappeared out of view.
When Gavin reached him, Jack slowed down and walked a few steps forward, making sure to leave a foot of space between himself and the tracks, just in case Gavin had got the timetable wrong. That wasn’t likely, but you’d never know what could happen. He didn’t want the Ragmullin to Dublin train ploughing into them, mashing them into mincemeat. Yuck.
‘What’s that?’ Gavin said, pointing at the screen.
‘Back Jedi up. Make it go over that piece of track again.’
Jack eyed Gavin and noticed his friend’s eyes dancing frantically in his head.
‘I thought I saw something between two sleepers,’ Gavin squealed. ‘Are you recording?’
‘Of course I am.’ Jack reversed the drone back over the route and studied the screen.
‘Hover it. Keep recording.’
‘I’m not stupid,’ he said. He stopped walking and stared.
‘Jack?’ Gavin’s voice trembled. ‘What is that on the tracks?’
Jack hadn’t a clue, but it reminded him of one of those monsters that was supposed to be a figment of your imagination.
‘It looks like a zombie. Like something Spiderman would tackle.’
Gavin said, ‘It looks like a headless body.’
Jack zoomed the drone in closer, hovering it over the thing on the railway track, and then watched in horror as Gavin vomited all down his school uniform.
Eventually Faye calmed down enough to find her phone and call Jeff. Within fifteen minutes, he was by her side.
‘I thought you’d been murdered or something,’ he said as he sat her into his aunt’s smelly armchair.
‘Don’t make light of it, Jeff. I was terrified of that … that thing.’ She wiped her forehead with the tissue he’d thrust into her hand. ‘What is it? Tell me it’s not real.’
‘It’s probably fake. Some sort of prank.’
‘But it’s been plastered up behind that wall for God knows how long. Surely someone wouldn’t put a fake skull in there, would they?’
‘It looks to me like someone did.’ He sat on the floor next to her. ‘Why were you knocking down the wall anyway?’
‘I was pulling off the wallpaper and I noticed the difference in the plaster.’
‘What difference?’ His voice was measured, but Faye thought there was an unusual edge to it. She tried to keep calm by admiring the straight line of his jaw and the smoothness of his chin on his long face. His blue eyes dazzled her in the half-light. She wanted him to hold her tight so that she could nuzzle into the soft cotton of his shirt, but he sat monk-like on the floor, his long legs crossed at the ankles. He was twenty-nine to her twenty-five and she was hopelessly in love with him.
‘That section was fresher.’ She pointed to the hole in the wall. ‘And when I hit it with the paint scraper, it sounded hollow.’
‘And you had to hammer the shit out of it. Why?’
Faye shrugged her shoulders wearily. ‘I?
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...