We take a walk up to the village store, taking care not to step on ice spots along the lane. The helicopter has gone and yesterday’s sleet and hail have returned, accompanied by black clouds and mists. Teams of villagers in cagoules and winter anoraks are out with torches and flasks of hot drinks, searching through empty fields and lanes for signs of the missing lad – known simply as Ryan.
The villagers have special patrols in place, complete with a transport system. Vans and dogs. German shepherds. Locals have opened the single- storey community centre further up the hill to prepare hot drinks and snacks for the searchers and help sort through maps of the area. I see them when we pass. The community centre resembles a turn of the century church hall, with balloons and crayoning pictures hanging in the low-roof foyer. The people inside are huddled around tea urns and portable heaters, dressed in winter clothing and hats, their faces rough and red from the drop in temperature. Children too have got involved with the activities in the community centre, although I notice several clusters of kids standing near the bus stop with cigarettes and unmistakable tins of cider, talking loudly among themselves as the sleet turns to slushy snow. Horrible.
Greg and I walk on in silence, our footsteps steady like a solemn march.
‘Are you all right, lad?’ he asks.
I nod, keeping my eyes on the ground and my hands dug in my trouser pockets. Maybe I should do a bunk and get away from this village. Give Greg the slip, get a taxi to the train station, board a train, get out of here for good, go back to Manchester where I belong. A woman in a raincoat passes us with her shopping and nods to Greg. A car moves slowly down the hill, spraying the pavements with slush, and I tense, then force myself to relax as the car approaches. The vehicle isn’t the one I saw parked near Dosser’s House in the early hours of Sunday morning.
‘How are you for baccy?’ Greg says.
‘Fifty grams do you till next Monday?’
‘Make it last, lad. You can pay me later.’
In the meantime, my first novel – Secrets by Lawrence Estrey – is available from Amazon (paperback, e-book). Genre: psychological thriller.
Newspaper article on author.