Silent, Separated By The Dark

The story should, hopefully, be self-explanatory from the content:


Gavin, Saturday, May 2019

I haven’t a clue where I am at first. It’s like I’ve just woken from a general anaesthetic, totally confused and groggy while monsters in corners watch from unseen eyes.

Monsters. Big monsters.  Small ones.  Some people are scared of ghosts.  I’m scared of monsters. When I was a kid, monsters haunted my dreams. They still do sometimes.  

The details come back to me, bit by bit.

Lucy. Jace. Steve.

A bloke even crazier than Steve.

Tied up in some remote ruins with the patter of water drops nearby.

The guy who knocked me out stands a few yards away, watching. The torch shines over in my direction and I see the Angel of Mercy for the first time.  A non-descript bloke in baseball cap. Aged thirty?  Forty?  I dont recognise him.  Who is he?  

I notice his smile and that scares me. Cunning, cruel. A predator teasing its prey before launching an attack. True cat and mouse. Felines actually enjoy playing with mice before killing them, but whatever. The guy’s a total lunatic.

I need to break these wires and tackle him. Find out what he’s done to Lucy, then leg it and get help.  

The darkness thickens, threatening a bout of nausea, which could choke me, since I’m lying flat on my back. Have to calm down, but virtually impossible. I could end up buried alive here.  Visions of the ceiling caving in, covering me with rubble. More rubble everywhere.  In my mouth. Nose. Going down my throat.  A thick paste of sewers and debris and dust.  One great big monster waiting to eat me up.  

I struggle to kick out. ‘Let me go,’ I yell.

The Angel of Mercy laughs. ‘Lucy’s in the next room. She’s my hostage, remember? Be careful, Gavin.’

No!  I try to sit up, but can’t.  He’s brought Lucy here, in the same building. The next room. She’s in danger, serious danger, and there’s nothing I can do to protect her.  

‘Let her go.’

The guy prods me with his foot. ‘Do you want another kick in the kidneys? Another dose of chloroform?’

‘No.’

‘An injection in the arm?’

‘No.’

‘Final word of warning then. You’ve already messed me around. Only speak when spoken to, or Lucy dies, like your other girlfriend Philippa. You don’t have much luck with girls, do you, Gavin? First, Philippa. Now, Lucy.’

And at that, I burst into tears, not caring if the guy kicks or injects me again.

Philippa.  My beautiful, beautiful Philippa.  

Gone forever.  

***
LUCY

Sounds distract her.

Crying.  A man sobbing in anguish, making animal-like noises in the dark.

She listens, fascinated, repelled.

Recognises the sound of the voice, even with the distortion.

Not the man in the baseball cap.

Nor Ash, her ex. Ash would never cry. Never ever.

Gavin, her friend from London. The piano player who came to visit her at Maxine’s flat yesterday or the day before.

Gavin’s here. Here, and crying. The man must have knocked him out with the drug as well and brought him in the van. Gavin’s found her and she should be happy that he has, but she isn ‘t – because the man’s snatched him too.  

They must escape together.

Silent, The House

The story, hopefully, should be clear from the content:

Gavin, Saturday Afternoon , May 2019
 
I take a different route to Lyme House. Across the main coastal road and down a tree-lined lane with a spring breeze and the smell of sun. Another crossing. Past an arty bookstore and a café-restaurant with umbrella-type covering. Bungalows and cottages and a village-like church with a water well. Broken twigs and pebbles and stones. Fields going further inland. This part of the town isn’t bad at all, if you can forget the rest of the area.  

Clearer air, although I can’t stop shaking. I keep looking over my shoulder in case Jace’s mate Steve is following. He ought to be locked up.  Jace once told me that Steve always gets them into trouble. For instance, Steve passes some random bloke and bumps into them, then claims the bloke bumped into him on purpose. Or he’ll see this girl he fancies on a dance floor and start trouble with the boyfriend. When I was last here, he snatched my phone and turned nasty when I asked for it back.  
 
Fields. Getting closer.  I reach the private driveway leading down to Lyme House. It’s a five or ten minute walk with tall hedges and trees on both sides. Stillness, the type you get in ancient woods. Trees everywhere. The scent of bark and acorns.  The temperature dips.  I can no longer see the sun.  The long driveway shows no sign of ending.  Finally, I come to the car park.  
 
Lyme House, an empty graveyard.  

I approach the old House.  
 
You can still see the damage. Before, a muddy brown building stood here, rectangular, two storeys high. The House lies in ruins now, sealed off by wiring and metal railings. The landscaped gardens have gone, replaced by weeds and wild grass and a discarded tyre, along with a burnt-out engine by one of the water fountains.  
 
Lucy’s former home.  
 
I continue.  
 
Stop when I hear a branch snap.  
 
‘Jace?’
 
A flicker of movement in the driveway.
 
Something like a dustbin overturning.  
      
A thud.  
      
A set of hands gripping me around the waist.
 
A knee lodges in my back, forcing my body into an awkward position.  I can’t see the person.  
 
Now the person’s bringing me down, and I’m falling.  
 
Falling and falling and falling backwards, all in quick motion.
 
The ground, but I don’t feel any pain.  
 
Not until the person kicks me in the kidneys, and I roar in agony.  
 
‘I warned you, didnt I?’  The Angel of Mercy whispers in my ears.  
 
I brace myself for another kick in the kidneys, but he places a cloth over my face.  

And then, the smell from the cloth.  
 
No way. Get if off my face, you nutter.  
 
Sweet chemical smell, though unpleasant.  
 
Worse than a kick in the kidneys.  
 
Coughing. Lungs on fire. Feels like Im puking up flames. Literally  
 
I black out.    
 
***

LUCY, Saturday May, 2019
 
I’ve got to get out of here.
 
Silence.  And shapes in the darkness.  Shadows that creep closer and closer and closer through deep fog and smoke, sneering and hissing at her.  
 
I won’t die, she tells herself. Someone will rescue me.    
 
Ash, her ex. Gavin.
Gavin.  Ashleigh.   Or Maxine, her best friend.
 
She tries to picture them, but can’t. The two become muddled, like they did a couple of years ago when she first met Gavin.  Gavin, with the thick raven hair and chunky shoulders. Easy-going, but moody with eyes to match.  He was gorgeous, though not like Ash.    
 
By now, Gavin will have guessed that somethings happened.  He will have got in touch with Maxine and contacted the police. They will be out looking for her now.  It will all be okay.
 
How long have I been here?  Why haven’t Maxine or Gavin raised the alarm yet?
 
Gavin! she thinks forcibly, hoping the strength of her plea will attract his attention.  Call the police.  Please.

Silent – The Journey

The story should, hopefully, be self-explanatory from the content:

Gavin, Saturday May 2019  

9.15am. Need a plan.  Put aside thoughts of running. Only cowards do that. We have to rescue Lucy.  

Me and someone else.  Jace lives near Lyme House. He’s my age and likes wearing army gear and acting tough, but he’s really intelligent and could have gone to Uni if he’d wanted. I haven’t seen him for about a year. He texts me occasionally. He’ll probably be in bed, but once or twice a month he gets up early to play football.  

I ring him on the off chance,.  

‘Hey, what’s going on, man?’ he says  

‘It’s Lucy.’  I explain.  

Jace swears. ‘Do you think it’s  connected?’  

‘I don’t know. It could be.’  

He swears again. ‘I’m cancelling footie. Come up. It will take you about an hour, an hour and a half.’  

‘Thanks, Jace. Sorry about making you miss the match.’  

‘No problem. Make sure you come. You’d better.’  

‘Yeah, I will.’  

‘Text when you get here, yeah?’  

‘Steve won’t be around, will he?’  

‘You don’t have to worry about him. He’s staying with his girlfriend.’  

***  
Lengthy journey involving a train and a single decker bus to the Lancashire coast, and I can only just about pay the fares. It takes longer than an hour – more like two and a half.  Windmills and waterways appear straight ahead, followed by a line of tiny aerials and a golf course. Gardens. A model railway.  

The scenery changes, and I notice streets of boarded up houses and shops huddled close together. Just like the other time. Finally, the sea comes into view, all filthy and grey, with a gigantic pylon-structure pier. Jace and his mate Steve used to love climbing the structure and pretending to jump off.  

The roof of the Grand Theatre is visible from the bus, shaped like a triangular dome. That’s where we, the Lyme House students, had our classes.  

The sky darkens when the bus gets closer to the coast and the temperature drops for May, reminding me of swooping seagulls and sand blowing about in the wind, the grits getting into my eyes.  A large sign reads: Lyme House, 1m. The driver takes a left, away from the road to the House.  

Lyme House, where I first met Lucy. A mile inland, tucked away in a private driveway hidden by trees and hedges. Mostly rich kids attended, but I got there on a scholarship, meals provided. From the start, I couldn’t understand why our hosts had chosen such a dismal town when they’d previously held classes at Lancaster University.  I was seventeen at the time and had just completed my first year at Lower Sixth.  I’m eighteen now, and in my first year of a degree. Pretty logical though: my birthday falls in the summer, and I had just turned seventeen when I arrived at Lyme House, so work it out. It’s easy.  

Approaching the High Street. Chain stores and ninety-nine pence shops. The locals looked stressed. More shops have closed and everywhere seems dirtier than before. I can already taste and smell the pungent mixture of salt and seaweed, along with something like diesel in the sea. I don’t see many tourists.  Mostly kids in hoodies hanging around the benches or summersaulting through the air on skateboards. The bus does a right. One final twist, and we reach the central roundabout.  

I step off the bus and text Jace.  

I take out some cash from a machine and buy a cold drink.  Row of guesthouses.  Zebra crossing. Traditional barber shop.  I pass a sandwich shop and a store selling cheap SIM cards and watches. I keep my eyes on the ground when I pass three boys kicking a can around at the entrance to the beach and hope they won’t make eye contact. The boys mutter among themselves and I feel their stares fixed on me as I keep going across the sand, down to the pier walkway.  I may have met them that other time, at Jace’s party on the abandoned fairground.  

Today, the clouds are thundery, matching the tone of the sea, and everywhere is silent, even the tide. I look back at the road. The boys are still watching; one gives me the finger. The Grand Theatre towers in the distance. I climb the steps onto the pier and make my way along the empty boardwalk, past soggy benches with peeling paint and boarded up vendor booths covered in graffiti and seagull mess. Crunched up beer cans. Vodka bottles smudged with purple lipstick. Chip wrappings.  

The smell worsens, a combination of pickled seafood, rotten fish and sand. When we came here the other time, the developers had already begun their work on the pier, but now only echoes remain. Ghosts and traces of memories. A girl with long ebony hair and loud makeup, walking along the sea railing.  

A girl who always dressed in black. Philippa.  

My chest tightens with emotion, and I have to shut my eyes for a moment. My Philippa.  The other girl. I loved her so much and she loved me.  We proved that.  

The sky’s tinged with angry colours, like a bruised arm, and a gust comes straight at me from the sea. I pass the seafront café  – basically, an egg and chips place with an ice cream sign round the front. Inside, a sprinkling of customers sit alone at tables, hunched over newspapers.  

The bar on the seafront. Virtually empty.    

Amusement arcade. I hear the clatter of coins and the squeal of electronic bleeps from the machines. But only a handful of people in there.  

Cigarette smoke. A couple of guys in army-style trousers leaning over the railings, smoking, talking.  

Army-style clothing. I turn to go but too late.  

One of the guys hears me approach.  

Jace.  

His eyes widen in surprise when he turns round and he puts a finger to his lips: leg it. He’s just threatened some bloke for looking at him. Girlfriend’s finished with him.

The other guy turns round then.  

Jace’s mate Steve.      

People say I have mad eyes, but Steve’s are even madder.  And his hair’s all messy and wild. As if he’s out of control.  

‘Posh Boy,’ he says, sneering. ‘Oi, what’s he doing back?’  

‘Let it go,’ Jace mutters.  

‘Not letting him get away with anything. He’s a grass.’  Scowling, Steve starts to make towards me. ‘I want a word with you, Posh Boy. I bet you’re the one who burnt Lyme House down, you sick twat. A twat and a grass. Like being a grass, do you?  Make you feel superior?’

I back off.  

‘What’re you doing here?  Oi, and don’t walk away when I’m talking to you.’  

Jace leaps in between us. ‘Leave it, Steve.  He had to tell the police what he saw.’  

Disappear, Jace mouths to me. I’ll catch you up outside the House.  

I don’t need telling again. A couple of oldish blokes have come out of the seafront bar to watch the commotion. Steve’s already dancing around and trying to dodge past Jace to get to me. I make a dash for it, legging it down the steps, onto the sand.    

‘Grass, filthy grass,’ Steve screams after me. ‘Watch your back. You’re dead, man. Dead. ‘

Silent: Still Trapped

The story should, hopefully, be self-explanatory from the content: 


Gavin, Saturday May 2019, 7.30am, Leeds City Centre

Go to the police and hope for the best. I linger by a set of traffic lights and start to panic again, aware of how weird my story will sound to strangers, like I’ve done somrthing to Lucy but want to pin the blame on a fictitious man who calls himself The Angel of Mercy. He’s real, though.

I turn round and leg it to the coach station, shaking all over. I’m cracking up, just as I did that summer nearly two years ago. Can’t go through any more intense police interviews. The way they played with my head last time.

But I can’t go back to London either.    

On the run.  

The perfect answer. I’ve thought about it so many times since starting Uni. I just wasn’t expecting to disappear today, under these circumstances.

The trembling stops. Yeah, I’m going.  

On the main road, a coach sets off for London and I watch it disappear round a corner.

I’m on the run, and happy about it  – or, at least, relieved to have escaped.

Disappear.

***
LUCY, still trapped in unknown location after being snatched by an unknown man who appears to have abandoned her temporarily. She suspects that the man is linked to her past.

Silence.  

In the stillness, past mistakes come back to taunt her.

Getting involved with Maxine’s brother Ashleigh.  

Taking on the job at Lyme House two years ago.  

Lying to her adoptive family about her whereabouts.  

She also lied to Maxine, in a way.  

Not exactly lied, but kept information to herself.  

Information that hurt.

***
Two Years ago:  
Summer School, Day 1

She took a walk through the fields before the start of the evening shift, hoping to clear her head. Coming to a tree stump, she wiped away flecks of twigs and leaves. She sat down and texted Ash. Wish you were here.  She added a heart and imagined him sitting by her. They were cuddling, kissing.  

Ash and Maxine planned to drive over next weekend. She couldn’t wait to see Ash again, although they wouldn’t get much time alone together. They’d been going out together for about six weeks. They hadn’t yet told Maxine about it.  It seemed awkward.

Sometimes, when Maxine was off modelling, she and Ash would lie in bed together in his room, but she didn’t feel comfortable going any further than that, especially with Maxine being such a good friend.  Ash was keen to go all the way. He was gorgeous, and he knew it. Full of himself. The bravado and bragging were really all part of a huge front and he was sensitive deep down.  

Lighting a cigarette, she inhaled deeply.  Bleakness. Empty fields. Beyond, the private driveway leading to Lyme House. She’d lived there for a while, shortly before the fire. In those days, she’d shared the Harlesden surname and attended the Prep School, but she’d found it difficult, especially after spending the first few years of her life in the south of the country. She’d never managed to get used to the Lancashire cold, the winter gusts, the biting chills, the rain. And then, an almost unbearably stifling summer had followed, ending with the murder of her mum and dad in the fire.

Now, after ten years, she was back, staying in a bungalow at the rear of Lyme House with a couple of girls. Wanting the truth. Wanting to clear Dad’s name.

She took a deep drag on the cigarette, then flicked the stub to the ground and stamped on it to put it out. Opening the pack, she lit another cigarette. Her adoptive parents didn’t know she’d returned to Lyme House and taken on the job under a false name, lying about her age. They’d gone on a cruise to celebrate an important wedding anniversary, and big sister, Bossy-Olivia, was away with the boyfriend. Everyone thought she’d gone on an extended walking holiday with a group of friends from Lower and Upper Sixth.  

Instead, she was here. New identity (Ash had a mate who’d done all the paperwork and Maxine had produced references and bank details). A couple of friends from Lower Sixth had agreed to cover for her in case her adoptive sister Olivia got suspicious.  

Her job?  Serving breakfast and dinner to the piano students and music staff for the next three weeks. Thankfully, no one had recognised her yet. They would though. She, Maxine and Ashleigh planned to disrupt the final concert in three weeks time and demand the truth in front of a packed audience.

She glanced at the time.  Her shift would start in a while. She inhaled hard on the cigarette until stars danced before her eyes and her chest hurt.  She shut her eyes. The cigarette was making her dizzy and sick.

Horrible, stinky town.

Even the House looked totally different. A team of builders had ripped out the interior and rebuilt the structure, irradiating all traces of Mum and Dad.  

She wished she hadn’t come back.

Silence – Her Friend, Maxine

The story should, hopefully, be self-explanatory from the content: 


Yes, she and Maxine shared a secret concerning a boy.

The Boy who lives close to the sea, near Lyme House in Lancashire.

She’d arranged to have lunch with Gavin at a café in the park to discuss The Boy as she’d been curious to see what Gavin would suggest, given his experiences at Lyme House.

But the man with the baseball cap prevented her from getting to Gavin. The Angel of Mercy, as he called himself earlier. He followed her back from the Cybercafé and appeared just as she parked her car outside Maxine’s. And then…running, running, running…thinking the man would never dare to attack her in public…that if she continued just a little longer, she would reach a main road and safety. But he caught up with her, the man. Brought her down so that her back crashed against the ground and pain travelled up and down her neck and spine. And then…the awful sense of detachment and false calm, as if she was observing it happen to her.  Looking at the houses and the sky, noticing mundane things like the net curtains in the porch at the corner of the next street. Nothing could hurt her anymore, because this wasn’t happening to her. Happening to someone else.  

And then?  The man kept pressing that cloth against her face…the chemical smell…the loss of consciousness…and she’d known nothing for a while, although she dimly recalls hearing a van door slamming shut at some point.

Now, she’s here now. Thirsty, but no longer hungry. Weak from the dark and the chloroform and the lack of food and drink.  She hates the man, but needs him to return so he can let her out.  

Again and again, she shouts, but no one answers.  He’s left her here to die.

Except she won’t die.  Someone will rescue her.  

Ashleigh, her ex.  Gavin.

Gavin.  Ashleigh.  One of them. They must.

***
The Boy first got in touch with her through Facebook, using an alias. He wasn’t old enough to have an account of his own. He lied about his age. He used his mother’s laptop and promised to be careful, but he thought his mother was getting suspicious.

An angry Boy who often turned on her for no reason, calling her names and saying she was spiteful and cruel. She always forgave him, though.  She loved him and wanted to protect him from the bullies.  

***

She counts to stop herself from going crazy. Thinks of earlier times.  A couple of years ago, before it all started. Her and ex-boyfriend Ashleigh, and Ash’s dog Bruce.  Big, mad Bruce, the Alsatian.

The three of them walking along wild grassland near their homes in Yorkshire, following a tiny stream out into fields, a breeze brushing against her cheeks, Bruce rushing ahead, ears pointed in anticipation. The smell of sun and soil. The excitement of that spring. Her and Ashleigh. She was so happy then.  

Ash, Ash, Ash. Silently, she calls him, hoping he will hear her.  
Rescue her. Go back to being how they were.  

Her and Ash.  Ash and her.  Forever and ever and ever.

***
Ashleigh lived opposite her in Yorkshire.  Maxine’s brother.

They hadn’t spoken until the day they’d met in Lower Sixth and found themselves paired together. She’d always thought him arrogant, but they’d got talking again one break time and he’d seemed so different…polite, thoughtful.  Even offered her his jacket to shield her from the rain when they’d walked home together, and he’d been shivering from the cold but he’d insisted she wear it.

That rainy afternoon, he’d invited her into his house, opposite hers. Maxine, a model, had been there, and they’d started chatting immediately.  Bruce, the German shepherd, had liked her straightaway…jumped up on the sofa by her, tail thumping, and looking pleased with himself.

Popular people.  Maxine and Ash were perfect in every way.  And they’d wanted to spend lots of time with her.

She and Maxine saw each other most days…talked…Max helped her with makeup and hair.

One evening, she confided in Max. Told Max about what had really happened when she was a little girl. Her parents dying in a fire. Her adoptive parents banning her real dad’s family from having any further contact with her.  The secrecy.

‘Why don’t you just go back and get the answers?’ Maxine had said to her. ‘I’ll help you.’

So she had, and another fire had broken out a decade after the first one.

***
I can’t die.  

She won’t.  Someone will realise she’s missing. Maxine, Gavin or a friend from Uni.  Or one of her tutors there. They’ll alert the police and the police will find her.  They will free her and punish the bad man, the so-called Angel of Mercy.

Exhausted, she drifts back to sleep.  

Silent – The Escape

The story should, hopefully, be self-explanatory from the content: 

Saturday, 5am Gavin

My phone is ringing again. Private Number.

I snatch the handset: ‘Yes? Hello?’

Please let this be Lucy or Maxine.  Please let this all be a joke.

Silence.

‘Final warning, Gavin,’ a man says, in a low but menacing voice. ‘The Angel of Mercy’s watching you and he’s very, very angry.  Leave Maxine’s flat at once. This is your very last chance.’

The line goes dead.  

Not hanging around.  

I grab the sports bag containing my clothes and coach ticket, and stuff my phone and wallet in my pockets.  Start towards the hallway.  

Freeze.

‘Let me in.’  Male voice. Loud.

Banging on the front door of the flat.

My heart thunders in my chest. A person’s in the building.  

More banging on the other side of the door.  

‘Let me in.’

The Angel of Mercy’s gained entry to the house.

Go through the back!

In the kitchen, I grope around in the dark, trying not to stumble or make any type of sound. The banging and shouting continue in the main hallway, louder now.  I spot the key in the lock, thankfully, but my hands keep shaking and I can’t get a proper grip – like in one of those nightmares where you need to get away from someone but find yourself rooted to the spot.

After what seems like ages – can’t be any more than a few seconds, though – I manage to twist the key. Success: I’ve wrenched open the door to the backyard. A blast of cold air hits me in the face. I leg it down the central path, to the wall where I scramble up and over, scraping my knees.

Jump.

Ouch!

Made it.   Just about.  

An orange-pink glimmer of sun peeps over the horizon. I’m standing in an alleyway, wincing from the impact of the jump. I look back at the house. The upstairs lights have come on, but I can’t see the ground floor or Maxine’s flat. The banging must have disturbed the other residents and woken them.  Whatever.  Its time to go, to get away from that madman who hammered on the door.

The text had read: GO BACK TO LONDON AND FORGET ABOUT HER OR SHE DIES AND YOU GET THE BLAME   THIS MESSAGE WILL SELF DESTRUCT IN 30 SECONDS

Ignoring the pain in my foot, I start to walk. Ahead of me lies a maze of side turnings, all identical and confusing. Trusting that the turnings will lead to safety – if not, I’m dead – I choose the nearest and limp along, keeping close to the trees in order to merge and remain invisible.  

Go faster.

I struggle along, trying to protect my twisted ankle. A few minutes pass, and I arrive at another leafy road with three storey-houses, like the one I’ve just escaped from.

Can’t possibly be the same road.  I look at the road sign. No. Different street.  

Left or right?  I take a right. After a couple of minutes, I come out at a junction on a main road.  The road’s deserted.  I cross and go down another side alley, limping still, looking back occasionally to see ifs anyone’s following.  

Quiet.

Heady from lack of sleep, I trawl through back streets and turnings, listening out for danger, for the Angel of Mercy.  As I walk, the Angel of Mercy’s voice replays again and again. That hint of a whisper, and then the shouting as he hammered away at the door. He’d obviously planned for me to leave through the front where he would have attacked or killed me. Worse, Lucy’s in trouble, possibly dead, and I don’t know how to help her, other than by going to the police and telling them everything.

But somehow I don’t think the police will believe me.  They have long memories.  

Another main road, busier than the first, though only slightly.  I cross, choose another side street to keep out of sight. A rough district now. I continue on along the dead end streets full of cigarette butts and empty cider cans, reaching a sprawling housing estate, similar to the one where I used to hang around in London shortly before I got into trouble with the police.

(Yeah, I got into a lot of trouble when I was fifteen/sixteen, and then more trouble at Lyme House). It’s a typical set up high rise blocks of flats with satellite dishes and balconies. The tower blocks and vandalised phone box by a set of railings evoke nostalgia for those days. The freedom. No demands.  No Lyme House. No mind games and murders.

Afterwards, my parents decided to send me to Lyme House in Lancashire to prevent me from getting into further trouble – and that’s how I met Lucy and the other girl, but you’ll hear more about that later.

I stop, tense. Footsteps, barely audible. I scan the horizon for signs of trouble.  

Nothing.

I keep on moving, hoping no one decides to jump me for my phone and wallet.  

A minute or so pass, and I stop again.  Like before, I feel as if someone’s observing me, slowly catching up. An unseen person. Stalker, hunter.

I leave the estate and join another road into the centre of town.

Decision.

Get the coach back to London. Go to the police and tell them Lucy’s in danger.

Silent – The Text

The story should, hopefully, be self-explanatory from the content: 


Gavin, Early Hours Of Saturday Morning, May 2019

A few minutes has passed since the silent phone call from a number withheld. Now a text has arrived with an attached image, from an unfamiliar number this time.

re Lucy

I don’t want to open it, as I know it’s going to be bad.

Don’t have a choice.  I open the message.  

This is serious, much worse than anything I’d anticipated.

I see an image of myself staring back from the screen, broad and clunky with a black leather jacket and coal-like eyes. Friends always tease me about those eyes, claiming that the colour makes me look like a lunatic – or as a friend (a girl but not a girlfriend) once told me, like a lovable panda bear.

A photo. Taken as I stood outside the coach station in Leeds late on Thursday afternoon, waiting for Lucy to meet me as we’d arranged.  

The text reads: GO BACK TO LONDON AND FORGET ABOUT HER OR SHE DIES AND YOU GET THE BLAME   THIS MESSAGE WILL SELF DESTRUCT IN 30 SECONDS

***
LUCY

The man’s left her to die here. A slow lingering death. But first, she’ll go mad. The man must know that. That must be why he’s gone: to punish her. He’s discovered her secret, the secret she’d planned to discuss with Gavin earlier in the park near Maxine’s flat.

The silence becomes audible.  Watching, waiting.  

Blackness.  Shadows forming in the dark. Figures in balaclavas, carrying petrol cans.

Insanity, her deepest fear.  

The fire from when she was a little girl.

She shuts her eyes. She can still hear the flames from then. See them. Light glowing: orange, angry, alive. Smoke, thick smoke, coming in from under the old bedroom door, like a ghost. A figure in a balaclava, watching from the hedges at night.

She opens her eyes. The flames continue coming from inside the old flat in the annexe of Lyme House. They come from the rear living room; an orchestra of fire licking the curtains, destroying them and the wooden beams. Flames creeping through the hallway, towards Mum and Dad’s bedroom.  The smell of burning. And more smoke.

Please, Maxine, phone the police.

The silence mocks her. Maxine can’t hear her thoughts. And Mum and Dad (her natural parents) are dead, so they can’t help her. She’ll die here.  Alone and forgotten, tormented by dreams and memories.

No Maxine. No Mum and Dad.

No adoptive parents. No annoying big sister,  Bossy-Olivia. No uni, no social life.

She’ll never be buried.  

Rot.    

For ever and ever and ever and ever. Here in this dark, underground place with the dripping water in the background and the smell of decay.  

No one will ever know the truth, apart from the man in the baseball cap.

I’ve got to get out of here.

She ignores the pain and tries to kick again, intending to dislodge the wires.  

Cries out in agony, yells.  

Help me!

Silent – How We Met

The story should, hopefully, be self-explanatory from the content: 


Gavin, Friday Night

Yeah, there was massive trouble nearly two years ago. It involved Lucy and another girl. And me.

The location?  Lyme House in Lancashire, a former Prep School for aspiring concert pianists. You know the sort?  Mainly rich kids, apart from those who got in on scholarships (such as myself). The media called it The School of Death because it already had a sinister past.  

After the investigation, Lucy occasionally emailed me. One evening I replied to a reply…Lucy responded to that and we started to communicate regularly.  Every two or three days at first. Then, every day. Finally, several times in a day. The emails took on a chatty tone…we exchanged phone  Eventually, we were texting five times a day.  Maybe ten.

And one of those texts included an invitation for me to visit her in Leeds.

I’m here now, and she’s gone.

***

Silent flat. No sign of neighbours.  No late night drinkers coming back from the pub.  Weird. Also reminds me too much of that other time…Lancashire and the utter silence of that House near the sea.

Unexpectedly, I feel the other girl now, close by. The girl that died. Her hair, long and black. Her smell. Her touch on my skin, soft and attentive. She has a playful smile on her face, innocent. I loved her. People say I didn’t, it was just an infatuation that got out of control, but those people are wrong.  They don’t know anything.

In the distance, I hear the dead girl laugh.  

A gleeful, mischievous giggle.

***

I get hammered and crash out on the sofa.  Next thing, my phone starts ringing and I bolt up with fright.  

4am.  Massive hangover.  Must have slept a while.

I reach for the phone.   Private Caller,

‘Hello?’

There’s a pause.  

Then the line goes dead.

***

LUCY

She stirs.  It is late, very late. The man in the baseball cap has returned.  He tiptoes around in the dark, light on his feet.

‘Let me go,’ she says.

‘When I’m ready.’

‘Please –

‘Are you disrespecting me, Lucy?’

‘No –

‘How many people do you think I’ve killed? Well?’ He doesn’t wait for her answer. Continues with: ‘Lots of people. They call me the Angel of Mercy because I’m quick.  I’ll leave you to think about that.’

Once again, he fidgets with a padlock and bolts an unseen door, leaving her alone in the dark.  

Silent: A Long Evening

The story should, hopefully, be self-explanatory from the content: 


Gavin, Friday Evening

Quarter to seven. Call someone? Lucy’s only been gone a few hours, but I can’t shrug off the unease. Anyway, who would I ring? It might seem weird, but Lucy and I have kept our friendship a secret.

7pm.  It’s getting chilly outside.  I shut the window and flick through the TV channels on the remote control.

8.15pm. I think about calling this friend of Lucy’s. Seeing what Maxine thinks.  No, too soon for that. Plus, she’ll probably demand an explanation for my presence in her flat and tell me to get out.  

I’ve never met Maxine. There’s a few photographs of her around the flat…sleek and chic – or to rephrase, elegant and tall. A model. Long chestnut hair and almond eyes. I find the eyes unsettling for some reason. Can’t figure out why really… something cold, calculating. They remind me of a cat skulking, watching…plotting. Yeah, that’s it: plotting. Maxine plots stuff.  

Perhaps I’m being unfair – whatever. I don’t know much about Maxine, apart from what Lucy’s told me and the general information that came up afterwards.  I know she has a younger brother who drives a sports car and spends his free time kicking a football around, convinced that someone will spot him and sign him up to a football club.  Maxine’s couple of years older than Lucy and me, a sort of big sister figure for Lucy. Currently on a modelling assignment. Really nice, according to Lucy, although Lucy’s family and the police don’t agree.  

8.30 pm.  I open the bottle of cider I managed to purchase yesterday with my Student ID card. Something powerful enough to chase away the memories of what happened that other time when Lucy and I first met. I pour cider into a tall glass, as I can’t find any pint glasses in the kitchen.  Drink.

10pm.  She must have remembered the nightmare in the early hours of the morning.  That’s it. I woke her and she lashed out – and now she’s embarrassed about it.  I try her number again. I’ll apologise and plead with her to make contact.

This time, the phone doesn’t ring. Instead, an automated voice informs me that Lucy’s number is no longer available.

***
LUCY

Time passes, she doesn’t know how much.  She’s been asleep, dreaming the bad dream. But now she’s awake, hiding in the stillness, watching shapes appear and disappear in the dark. Waiting for the man with the baseball cap to return and let her out.  

She hasn’t eaten since he grabbed her in the alleyway and brought her here. She wills him to return so he can release her, but he stays away, and there is only blackness.

***
Things become clearer again. She remembers the Cybercafé. Going there once or twice a week on her free afternoons, especially when she suspected that someone had accessed the information on her laptop and hacked into her emails.    

She remembers arranging to have lunch with Gavin at a café in a nearby park to discuss the secret that only she and her friend Maxine knew about.

But she also invited Gavin up for a different reason: they share a history, a certain sizzling chemistry that has lingered ever since they first met at Lyme House nearly two years ago.

She likes Gavin a lot.But she senses a barrier that she can never cross and knows she can’t compete with the other girl.

The dead girl. Gavin’s lover at the House.

Gavin! she thinks forcibly, hoping the strength of her plea will attract his attention somehow. Call the police. Tell them, I’m in trouble.  Tell them to go back to the Cybercafé and trace the customers.  Please.

But there is only silence.

Silent: Late Afternoon

The story should, hopefully, be self-explanatory from the content:


Gavin, Friday Afternoon:
 
Lucy needed to get away for a while. Yeah, that must be it.  She’s obviously stressed and upset, judging from her nightmare in the middle of the night.
 
I’m tired from the long coach journey yesterday. I watch TV and drift off to sleep in the middle of a film, coming to with a jolt. At first, I can’t work out where I am, or why.  You know the groggy feeling? No sense of day or time or location.
 
The information comes back to me in short bursts: Leeds – took the coach up from London yesterday (to save on costs) – arranged to meet Lucy in the park earlier.  The play area.  Lucy didn’t turn up.  
 
I leave another message on her voicemail.  No reply.
 
4.50pm.  I start to panic.   Supposing she doesn’t come back till late on Sunday.  After I’ve gone back to London.  I must have done something to offend her – but what?
 
5.45pm.  I put a couple of slices of bread in the toaster. Remove them. Add slices of cheese and a dash of ketchup. Return to the sitting room where the television drones on in the background and eat without enthusiasm.  
 
What’s going on with Lucy?  If she wanted space, why did she invite me here?  Didn’t we go through this type of stuff before?  I should have left the past alone.
 
Grabbing the spare key, I set off for the park again. It’s a short walk, past lines of houses that have been converted into flats and bedsits. A turning to the main road.  Another warm evening, May. Quiet area – few people around, not many cars. I cross at the zebra, turn left.  
 
The park gates.  Empty, apart from a couple of groups of kids squatted on benches and some boys further up playing football. I stand by the main railings, looking in, feeling stupid.  Why am I there?  It’s so clear that Lucy isn’t in the park.  I turn round and go back, stopping at a shop to buy some treats. Two different flavours of crisps and a couple of bars of chocolate.  For Lucy.  
 
Everything’s going to be okay, I tell myself as I approach the flat. When I get in, Lucy’ll be there.
 
But she isn’t.
 


***
LUCY:
 
She sleeps and dreams of nothing.  
 
Wakes, confused all over again.  Headache. Silence, apart from tapping water in the background.  
 
It takes her a while to piece the facts together…Lucy Stone from Richmond in North Yorkshire, originally Lucy Harlesden from the famous musical family…she has an older sister, totally bossy and irritating, called Olivia, who’s not really her sister but her cousin. Mum and Dad are dead. They died in a fire. Mum’s brother and his wife adopted her when she was about nine or ten and they changed her name from Harlesden to Stone, and she grew up in a huge detached house in Richmond with a great garden round the back.  
 
And then, after Richmond?
 
Uni, Leeds.  Media Studies.  
 
That’s right. She got there and tracked down an old friend who’d lived nearby in Richmond.
 
Maxine.  Her adoptive parents had forbidden her to have any further contact with Maxine, but she went against their wishes.  
 
Where am I?
 
The Cybercafé. She had things to do.  
 
A secret.  She told Maxine about the secret, no one else.  
 
A man in the Cybercafé.  He must have followed her back to the flat.
 
A flicker of memory…she parked her car in front of Maxine’s flat, didn’t she?  After she’d finished in the Cybercafé?  When she got out, a man appeared without warning, blocking her path, and she ran as fast as she could.  A man wearing a baseball cap.
 
‘Help,’ she calls. ‘Someone call the police.  I’m trapped.’
 
Silence.  She remembers running in the opposite direction from Maxine’s flat, tearing sideward across a lawn, down a side alleyway, but the man caught up with her in the alleyway. Grabbing her around the waist, he brought her down on the ground, face up.
 
And then?  Struggling against him on the ground, kicking, trying to push him off with her palms. The man placed a black cloth on her face and she detected a strange sweet, chemical smell coming from the cloth, and after that everything began to fade from her vision.
 
Her mind goes blank. ‘Let me out,’ she screams. ‘Someone call the police.’
 
But the silence and darkness remain.