Missing Piece – Emma Snow

The only sound in the room, other than her muffled screams, was that of the clock Ɵcking on the mantelpiece. The clock was warning him. Time was running out. He sat at the table, not looking at her, not looking at the clock. He was looking at the guidebooks spread out like a fan before him, one open in his hands. The sun was seƫng and it was irritaƟng him. Soon, he’d need to either switch on the light to conƟnue reading or leave the house. He wasn’t prepared to do either, not unƟl he knew for sure where Martha was. The answer was in front of him, if he could only put the pieces of the puzzle together in the right way. Outside the autumn wind was picking up. A storm was due in a couple of days. He saw it as another omen that Ɵme was running out. He hoped the bad weather wouldn’t hit before he was ready. AŌer he was done, it wouldn’t maƩer what the skies did. It wouldn’t maƩer about anything at all once he was finished.

As long as he could see the sky when he needed to. But that was further ahead. Not time to think about that yet. First he had to find Martha. The computer sat ignored in the corner of the room. He hadn’t needed to use it. He’d got everything he needed from her mobile phone. Modern technology was his friend. A password or PIN and he’d have had to force it out of her. She might even have lied long enough for the phone to lock up completely. But with fingerprint recogniƟon, all he had to do was press the phone to her hand and it was unlocked in an instant. All she could do in response was scream louder into her gag while he sat and read through her emails. Technology had led him to her house and it would lead him to Martha. He hadn’t used the phone for long. He wasn’t sure about mobile tracing but he guessed it worked similar to landlines.

Stay on too long and you could be traced. He had no intenƟon of being caught that easily. He had spent a lifeƟme being careful, making sure he didn’t stand out, didn’t draw aƩenƟon. That concept even washed over into his choice of clothes. A plain pair of blue jeans, a tee-shirt under a woollen jumper that was once white, now greying, small hole at the leŌ elbow. Over that was a charity shop raincoat in black, the uniform of the nondescript. He wouldn’t stand out anywhere, his greying hair cut short, his beard long enough to allow him to remove it and become a different person should the need arise. His car was just enough years old to blend into the street, not draw any attention. “She’s at a castle,” he said, folding the brochure closed before sliding his hand towards the next guidebook. “But which one?” The pile of brochures and guidebooks was all he had to go on. She still wasn’t talking. Tantallon castle. Warwick. Alnwick. Dover.

He’d try the big names first, the tourist draws. But he needed something to help him narrow it down. He didn’t have enough Ɵme for a leisurely search. The night was approaching. He’d remained hidden for so long, it was hard to accept he might have left it too late to emerge from hiding. It had been a hard balancing act. Move too soon and he risked alerƟng her that he was coming, that he wasn’t dead like she thought. Move too late and he would miss the deadline. He could sƟll do it as long as she played ball. He looked down at her. He had kept an eye on social media whilst he was hidden. He knew it would be key to finding her. She never appeared but her best friend had. It was all the help he needed. The email had given him the next clue.

Siƫng there on the phone, one more helping hand just when he needed it most. This was his desƟny, he could feel it coursing through him like pure adrenaline, keeping him wired, keeping him alert. I’ve finally done it. You were right. It took a long Ɵme but I think I’m seƩled at last. You remember which castle I was going to, don’t you? Come and see me some time. He turned back to the brochures he’d gathered from her bookcase. He had looked into how many castles there were in Britain aŌer reading in the email, wanƟng to know how big a task it was going to be, using her Internet to find out. There were more than six hundred castles in the United Kingdom. Two hundred and fiŌy in England alone. Was Martha even in England? Would she have gone further than that? What if she’d travelled into Europe? He needed to know quickly, which is why he had the brochures in front of him. She wouldn’t have chosen one at random. She’d have chosen one that meant something to her. He had wracked his brain before he began his hunt for her, thinking all the way back to when he last saw her, well worn paths in his mind that he had walked along many hundreds of Ɵmes. Nothing came to him for a long period but finally, out of nowhere, he realised what he needed to do.

She had vanished, not showing up online anywhere. As if she didn’t exist anymore. But she was sƟll out there somewhere, he knew she was. He needed to think laterally, not easy with the excitement of the chase already building inside him. It was Ɵme to emerge, like a buƩerfly from a cocoon. He was ready to fly up to them. It was time to finish the game. Type Martha Coleman into Facebook, TwiƩer, Google, nothing useful comes back out. There were Martha Colemans out there but none of them were her. All of them were dead ends. But she wasn’t in control of what her friends did. There was less than a week to go when it happened, the key to finding her appeared before him. He’d been uƩerly demoralised, his calendar showing him the time he’d wasted, each passing day making the hunt more urgent. With six days leŌ, he dug out the photo, the one photo he had of Martha, the one he kept hidden under the loose floorboard in the bathroom. Peel back the lino, lever up the board, reach all the way in unƟl his elbow was covered in dust and there, taped to the underside, almost out of reach, was his sole link to when the game had begun.

It was a yellowing photo, the image containing five smiling faces and him. He was with them, the last exisƟng piece of evidence that he had ever been with them, the building behind them long gone. Five of them and him, five girls, four of them smiling. She was on the far leŌ, not looking at the camera. She was not smiling, her eyes were fixed on his. Just looking at the photo was hard. It brought on the shame of arousal combined with the knowledge of his failure. But there was also the spark of warmth, the way he had felt whenever she’d looked at him. She never knew how hungry he had been for her, how much she outshone her companions. She found out of course aŌer the photo was taken. He educated her in so many things. And was she even grateful? Not once had she thanked him for what he’d done for her. The bitch. He felt that way every Ɵme he looked at the photo. Churning emoƟons running through his head.

It was hard to do but a necessary evil. It gave him strength. It helped him to keep going, to remember why he was doing this. He was doing this because he wasn’t going to lose again. He could handle the pain of looking at her as she was then, he had handled far worse. He only had to glance at the wrinkled and gnarled flesh on his arms and hands to be reminded of that fact. The photo was a talisman as much as a memento. He had kept it despite the risk. He had to. It had kept him safe. It would help him to find her one day, he somehow knew that even back then. A hero’s journey couldn’t be easy or else it wasn’t worth the effort. It had to be hard. And he was right. It had been hard and the photo had helped.

He had looked at the photo with less than a week to go and he had tapped the face of the girl next to Martha. Lisa Kirke. Her best friend. The only other one sƟll alive. Why hadn’t he thought of her? Typing that name into Facebook brought up a whole new list of faces to go through and halfway through the third page, he’d seen her. Even with ten years of aging, Lisa was sƟll recognisable. She was in Chester. Everything on her profile was visible. He tried to contain his excitement as he scrolled down through her past, seeing more than a year of updates, photos, memes, likes, a life on screen, a life that missed out the most important thing about her, the fact that she’d met the Gamesman and lived. Then he found what he needed on the next page of images. OMG New house! An album of photos and best of all there was a view from the front. Not only was the number on the door visible, in the corner of the shot was the street sign. Acorn Lane. It was all he needed. If he had more Ɵme, he might have played with her when he found her.

But the clock was Ɵcking. He looked up Acorn Lane, then used Google Street View to narrow down the search. By the Ɵme he went to bed that night, he knew exactly where she was. He hardly slept. He was too excited. The next day he drove just over two hundred miles unƟl he reached Acorn Lane, Chester. He parked up at the end of the street and walked up to Lisa’s door. He pressed the bell and waited, parcel in his gloved hands, the gloves hiding the damage to his skin, his jacket hiding the rest. A car drove past as he waited. The driver didn’t even look in his direcƟon. It had been a long Ɵme since the Gamesman had been in the news and he’d kept a low profile since then. The world had moved on. It had forgoƩen him. It would remember him again soon enough. When he saved them all, he’d be lauded as a hero, not vilified as a murderer.

It was the injusƟce of their opprobrium that angered him the most. His job was to save the world. Could he help it if he wanted to have some fun along the way? Relieve the stress, use her to liŌ a little of the burden from his shoulders. The door opened and he curled his toes in his boots, the way he always did whenever he needed to keep his emoƟons in check. Lisa was standing there and it wasn’t easy to keep the excitement from his face. He was one step closer to Martha. She was the key. He just had to get her to talk. Lisa was blonde now, she’d swelled out, her chest in that Ɵght white top drawing his eyes. Playing with her would be so much fun, seeing how her body had changed since last Ɵme he’d had her alone. Her missing eye made him harden, he had done that to her. A permanent mark. A reminder of his power over her, something she’d never have chance to forget. She might not have burned like she was supposed to but he’d marked her nonetheless. The report of her injuries had reached him in hiding.

One eye lost in the blaze. Whatever she looked at, he’d be there in her mind, taking the place where her depth percepƟon should be. For a second he could hardly breathe. “Yes?” she said, not a hint of fear in her voice. No sign that she recognised him. His cap was pulled low over his eyes, just to be safe. “Delivery for a Miss Kirke.” His voice disguised, higher than usual, a slight lisp and a hint of a West Country accent, enough to put her off. “That’s me.” “I’ll bring it in for you, it’s heavy.” “That’s fine, you don’t have to.” But politeness won out. She wasn’t pushy enough to tell him to stop when he walked past her and along the hallway. He glanced in each room as he went, not lingering long enough to make her suspicious, just making sure she was alone. Then he stopped in the dining room, puƫng the parcel down on the table, turning to find Lisa standing in the doorway.

Could she see how hard he was? “Do you need me to sign something?” she asked as he reached into his pocket. “No,” he replied, taking a step towards her as he pulled out the knife. “I need you to tell me where Martha is.” An hour later, he had her safely Ɵed up while he looked through her emails, finding the one he wanted after ten minutes of searching. She watched him from the corner of the room. So, Martha was at a castle. He was too excited to think about checking the sent folder. If he had, he might have seen the pages of messages, each one idenƟcal, each one sent to the same recipient. It simply didn’t cross his mind to look. He had an email from Martha, proof that she was still alive. All his focus was on that. It was almost too much to bear. He found the brochures and the guidebooks on the bookcase in the living room. She was sƟll refusing to talk. He was paƟent, giving her Ɵme.

She would talk in the end, especially when she saw what he’d brought in the parcel, the means to remove her other eye. His mother had been very clear with him. He could make them do anything if he worked hard enough. You’re special, Samuel. You’ve been chosen to do this, you should feel honoured. I know it might seem scary, such a weight on such young shoulders. Treat it like a game, Sam. Here, let me show you. He’d tried to do what he was chosen to do. He’d made it a game. But he’d failed last Ɵme. He’d let Mother down. He wouldn’t fail again. He opened the parcel. “Where is she?” he asked, turning to look at Lisa.

She flinched, screaming into her gag and trying once again to free herself, her head smacking into the wall next to her, no longer able to see where she was. “Tell me and I’ll let you live.” TWO At the same Ɵme that a board game was being laid out on Lisa Kirke’s dining room table, a sixty year old man in Worcester was siƫng with his cordless phone in his hand, trying to decide whether or not to call the police. It was the first Ɵme she hadn’t sent her message and he was worried. He had long ago come to an arrangement with Lisa, soon aŌer Martha vanished. She would ring or email him every day, tell him she was safe. If he didn’t hear from her, he would assume something had gone wrong. Timothy Burleigh knew that something was wrong, no call, no email, something was definitely amiss. He had become increasingly nervous when the sun began to set and he sƟll hadn’t heard from her. It was possible she’d forgoƩen. No, that wasn’t true. She wouldn’t forget after so long. Something had gone wrong. Something had happened to her. He had promised to protect her, protect them both.

Martha had gone, disappeared, her trauma too great to bear. He didn’t blame her although it had hurt to lose contact with her. Lisa told him that Martha had done it to try and free herself from her past. But the two girls had kept in occasional touch with each other. He hadn’t pried, he had just made Lisa promise to let him know if Martha needed anything. It had been a long Ɵme ago but he hadn’t forgoƩen his vow to protect them both, to make up for the failures of the past. He had let them down back then. He had let down all five of them. Samuel Lyons had abused five girls at Beeches Care Home, although Martha had borne the worst of it, the most sickening treatment. Three of them had died in the fire with Samuel in the care home, at his care home. He had invested in it, he had profited from it. Was it his fault? Although he hadn’t liked Samuel, he wasn’t responsible for staffing, that was the job of the home manager who had reeled off a list of the new employee’s credenƟals, all of which turned out to be false. But the truth didn’t come out until after the fire. Samuel had abused at one care home aŌer another, there were even rumours that he had killed, rumours which were proved accurate in the detailed enquiry that took place aŌer the fire. The pieces had been put together.

He had killed children, he had abused and murdered them. And then when the net had Ɵghtened around him, he had burned the place down with him and five children inside. Timothy had been able to get two of them out, Lisa and Martha. Martha had screamed at him, haƟng him for rescuing her instead of the others. She had to live with seeing three of her best friends burned alive. Even then, Burleigh had his doubts about Samuel or the Gamesman as he was already being called by the papers. Martha’s interview with the police had been leaked, the gruesome details of the board game he made them play, the way he made light of what he was going to do, the tabloids lapped it all up. They chose that element to focus on, playing down the rest. It was barely menƟoned that he had told the girls about a prophecy. He had been searching for an offering. He had to sacrifice the shining light among them, the others mere vassals to assist him in his quest. They had to burn in the flames, their essences going up to the Churymov comet, a comet that arrived once every ten years, a comet that held the Gods within it. If he failed to make the offering, the earth would be doomed. Burleigh hadn’t forgoƩen that part of the interview. Ten years unƟl the comet came back.

What if there wasn’t just him that believed in the delusion? The police thought Lisa and Martha were safe. He wasn’t so sure. Three dead because of a delusion. That was what had broken Martha. Knowing they had died because Samuel believed in an arcane ritual from the cult his mother had belonged to, a belief that allowed him to play with the offering first, to play in the most sickening manner. Martha had vanished, hiding from her past. His only link to her was Lisa. Lisa who hadn’t sent her daily message for the first time ever. He’d come to an agreement with her a month aŌer the fire, when he became certain that it wasn’t Samuel’s body that had been found in the ruins, when he thought the Gamesman would come back to try and finish the job, complete the sacrifice, make his offering. She would message Burleigh every day to say she was safe. Reassure him about her and Martha. She had kept to that agreement until today. Something was wrong. Martha refused to contact him every day, refused to even speak to anyone from that Ɵme except Lisa. She had been just twelve years old when it had happened.

Orphaned, living in a care home, abused, then nearly burned to death, her friends killed. Was it any wonder she had decided not to trust adults with her safety? To run, to trust only herself? THREE By the Ɵme Burleigh decided to call the police, Samuel had leŌ Lisa’s house and was driving north. Lisa had told him the truth in the end. He’d never really doubted she would. His mother would have been so proud. He had leŌ Lisa in the bath, her limbs sƟll bound, the gag sƟll Ɵed around her mouth. He had wanted to stay and play with her but he had a job to do. Mother had made it clear. He was the saviour of mankind. He was going to save the world. And time was running out. He was going to save everyone. That thought had kept him going through the long years of waiƟng. He had wanted to find Martha sooner. He missed her throughout the years of hiding.

But he knew if he gave in to his urges, he wouldn’t be able to offer her up. He even thought about kidnapping her soon aŌer the fire, before she vanished, keeping her with him for the decade unƟl the comet came back. But the risk was too great. Ten years was a long Ɵme for her to escape, tell the police, get him locked up. Then the world would be doomed. If he didn’t make the sacrifice before Martha turned twenty-five, it would be too late. Why twenty-five? He had asked his mother that and been slapped across the face for his audacity in quesƟoning her and her beliefs. That was just the way it was. No more quesƟons were acceptable. She had made him see the truth. You did not quesƟon what had to be done. You just did it. It was the same when his search for an offering first began. He wouldn’t know who it would be unƟl it happened. One day he would meet the offering.

He would know who it was the moment he saw her. All he had known was that it would be a girl. It was always a girl. The offering was always a girl. Girls were sluts and dirty and deserved to die. He thought, when his mother told him that, that it meant the offering wasn’t as pure as it should be. If girls were bad, why sacrifice them? His mother had dripped the truth into his ears unƟl all doubt was gone. It was a girl. He was not to quesƟon the way things were. He was to accept the truth as it was. His mother sent him out into the world to find the one, seƫng him up at work at his first care home, telling him that was where the daughters of whores always ended up. He should begin his search there. His reward would be freedom unƟl he found her. He was free from the laws of man as long as he didn’t get caught, as long as he didn’t kill her unƟl the Ɵme was right. He could play with them while he searched, as long as he was careful.

At the age of sixteen he began looking at the Shady Oak, finding no girls good enough for his purpose. The comet came and went and he had found no one worthy. His mother died but his search sƟll conƟnued. It came and went again. Doubt was just beginning to creep in, he was beginning to wonder if he would ever find the one aŌer so many years of looking without any sign. What if his mother was wrong? Then he met Martha at Beeches. The clock had begun ticking. FOUR It was Martha’s favourite Ɵme of day. She had the enƟre castle to herself. For a few minutes every evening, she could almost believe it was hers and hers alone. She had worked there for a liƩle over five years and yet she sƟll enjoyed the fantasy each Ɵme she locked up. Close her eyes and she was a princess, sweeping across a courtyard past her subjects. But she always had to open her eyes and see the reality, the faded burn on the back of her hand a permanent reminder that she was no princess, she was just daydreaming damaged goods. The sun was slowly seƫng behind her, colouring the grass in the soŌ light that only came at that Ɵme of day, taking the edge off the jagged stone of the chapel wall. She crossed the drawbridge over the earthworks, glancing down to check below.

It wasn’t unknown for people to try and hide under the drawbridge at closing Ɵme, teenagers for the most part, hoping to remain on site aŌer the staff had leŌ, unaware that Martha lived in one of the houses next to the castle, close enough to hear their laughter on the few occasions it had happened. It hadn’t happened since she’d begun making a point of checking every potenƟal hiding place before locking up. The castle consisted of a roughly rectangular curtain wall, complete in some places, down almost to nothing in others. Within the boundary was a wide stretch of grass containing the remains of the East Tower, the Great Hall, the chapel and two underground storerooms, reachable down crumbling stone steps. The tower was missing one wall, pulled down during the Civil War, the roofless insides open to the elements. The Great Hall, in contrast, was sƟll complete, the rooms divided up into exhibition spaces. Walking through them, Martha ducked down the spiral staircase to what was once a secret escape route out to the earthworks, now a door to nowhere. In front of the permanently locked door was the alarm and she punched in the code, counƟng down the seconds as it beeped loudly in Ɵme with her counƟng. She had half a minute to get outside, any longer and the alarm would go off. She made it in twenty seconds, locking the door with the heavy iron key as the sound faded to nothing. Once that was done, she paused, looking around her at the growing darkness. The place was so peaceful when the visitors leŌ, just her and the pigeons which waddled slowly across the grass. Through a gap in the curtain wall, she could see the town, the castle overlooking it, built on high ground, designed to impress and command the surrounding populaƟon during the middle ages. Amongst the panƟled roofs was the one that belonged to her. It brought a warm feeling to her heart to think of it.

A place of her own. She might not have paid to buy it, she might only be renƟng it from the owner, the same man who owned the castle, who had given her the job all those years ago. But it was still hers, a sanctuary. For a long Ɵme, she hadn’t had a home, somewhere she could return to, somewhere she felt safe. For too long she’d felt lost, the result of everything that had happened to her as a child. SomeƟmes, most oŌen when a happy family passed through into the castle grounds, she felt a flare of jealousy, wondering what it would be like to have a childhood that wasn’t filled with fear and self loathing. But she had no way of knowing and she knew if she let thoughts like that in, they would consume her. They almost had, for more than two years aŌer the fire, she had sunk into the depths of despair, wishing she had died in the blaze, not survived to feel the guilt of leaving Sophia, Janet, and Clare behind. They would never grow older than twelve. It was a thought that ate away at her for a very long time. Taking the job at the castle had saved her really, given her a purpose, a distracƟon, a way of redefining herself. She wasn’t a vicƟm anymore. She was a survivor. And when she was alone, looking at the town from inside the castle, she was a medieval princess. She was glancing that way, squinting as the light continued to fade, when the wind began to pick up, the leaves on the trees that surrounded the car park beginning to rustle soŌly.

The weather was due to turn, the last of the autumn warmth due to die out in a storm according to the forecast. She zipped up her coat as she began to walk back towards the gatehouse, passing through and looping around the earthworks for one final check before returning to the visitor centre to finish up the paperwork. The castle had been put to bed for another day. When she walked into the office that adjoined the giŌ shop, she found the red light on the phone was blinking urgently. Someone had leŌ a message. She hit the buƩon, fairly certain it would be from Peter, wanƟng to know if his baby had been put to sleep properly. For a man heading towards reƟrement he didn’t seem to find it easy to let go of control of the place. Even on his days off, he’d pop in to check on her and the other staff, to dust the shelves, to talk to the visitors, tell them about the history of the place. Martha doubted he’d ever reƟre. Even when he did, she couldn’t imagine him siƫng at home compleƟng jigsaw puzzles. He’d probably be haunƟng the place long aŌer his death, joining the ranks of ghosts said to roam the grounds late at night. The site had been owned by his ancestors for generaƟons, all the way back to the 1700s when the family who built it, the Especs, decided it was too old fashioned for their needs. They’d built a mansion a couple of miles up the road, the descendants sƟll living there. The castle itself was leŌ empty for fiŌy years, long enough to begin to crumble, a process sped up when local residents began carƟng away stone to build their coƩages almost up to its doorstep. The Robertson family had bought the place in the late eighteenth century, looking aŌer it ever since, slowly consolidaƟng the ruins, keeping the ivy in check, employing first sheep to cut the grass, then lawnmowers as the twenƟeth century began.

It had been open as a visitor aƩracƟon since 1890 at a shilling a Ɵme with a free glass of lemonade thrown in. Times had changed but the castle had remained preƩy much the same since then, though the visitor centre had been built in the 1970s to accommodate the growing number of day-trippers who were drawn to Helmsley and the moors beyond. A voice emerged from the answerphone, filling the office as Martha listened. “This is Doctor Harris at York Hospital.” Her heart began to race. A doctor ringing was not going to be good news. “I’m trying to reach Martha Coleman. We have a Peter Robertson here with us, he’s been in an accident. Could you please ring as soon as you pick up this message.” Martha scrambled for a pen as he read out the number. She hit play again, making sure she had it right before punching the number into the phone. Ten minutes later she was in her car, heading towards York. The doctor had refused to be drawn over the phone as to how serious it was but she could tell by his voice that it was bad. Peter had been driving out of Helmsley when a lorry had come barrelling down the hill. At the boƩom, just as you entered the town, there was a humpback bridge, the road narrowing over it.

Martha had had a few near misses herself driving over it. The lorry hadn’t slowed, assuming anyone coming the other way would react quickly enough to move. But Peter hadn’t been able to swerve in Ɵme, or the lorry had been going too fast. Either way, the result was he’d been slammed into by a vehicle four Ɵmes the size of his, ending up trapped in what was once his car, crushed between the side of the lorry and the stonework of the bridge. He’d been rushed to hospital and had regained consciousness long enough to give them her name and location which was why they’d rung her. She tried not to cry as she drove, knowing that if the tears started to fall, she’d risk being in an accident of her own. She’d just driven over the bridge, seeing the missing secƟon of wall where it had fallen into the river, pushed off by the impact of Peter’s car. The sight shocked her, it must have been a hell of a smash. She tried not to think of her parents, how they’d died in a car crash all those years ago. Was it her? Was she cursed? She put her foot down, catching up with the car in front before swerving out and around it. She would have set off sooner if it wasn’t for having to deal with the man knocking on the visitor centre door, asking if he was too late to look around. She had tried to get around him but he’d blocked her path, trying to be polite in his needling. “Just a couple of minutes,” he said. “I won’t take long.” “Come back tomorrow,” she’d replied, pushing roughly past him and heading for the car park.

That oŌen happened. Visitors would expect her to work on their Ɵme, not accepƟng that she might need a break aŌer slogging solidly for twelve hours or more. Normally, she was polite, explaining to them the hours of business, how much they valued their visitors. But not when her employer might be dying. It took forty minutes to get to the hospital. She leŌ the car haphazardly parked in the Accident and Emergency car park, crossing the few yards to the entrance at a run, geƫng inside and skidding to a halt by the desk. “Peter Robertson,” she said to the nurse who looked up at her. “Where is he? I’m Martha Coleman. Doctor Harris rang me.” “Through that door, turn left,” she replied. “He’s expecting you.” She ran over to a set of automatic doors which remained stubbornly closed. “You need to push the button,” the nurse called after her, pointing at the side of the door. Swearing under her breath, Martha saw what she meant, hiƫng the green buƩon on the wall, waiƟng impaƟently as the doors slid open. She marched through, turning down the corridor, the smell of disinfectant knocking her back.

She was just turning another corner when a man walking the other way bumped into her. He stopped short, looking at her with Ɵred eyes. “Miss Coleman?” “Martha, yes.” “I’m Doctor Harris.” “How is he, Doctor?” “I’m not going to lie, it doesn’t look good. He lost a lot of blood before we could get him stabilised. His left leg’s broken in two places and he’s cracked a couple of ribs.” “He’ll live though, right?” “If we can get the swelling of his brain to come down, then he’s in with a chance but if he’s got any relatives, you might want to get in touch with them, just in case.” “Can I see him?” “Not at the minute. My team is sƟll working on him. Does he have any family that you know of?” “A son and an ex-wife. That’s it.” “Are you in touch with them?” A voice called out from behind the doctor. “Martha, is that you?” “That’s Peter,” she said. Doctor Harris spun on his heels and stuck his head in the room behind him.

“Wait there,” he said as he disappeared inside. She caught him asking, “Is he conscious?” as his voice faded away. Peter shouted out again. “Martha, get in here.” She stood in the doorway, torn between the doctor’s command and her employer’s. For a few seconds she couldn’t move but then she pushed open the door, finding Peter laid on the bed surrounded by people. “Just try and relax,” Doctor Harris was saying. “Someone get a hold of him before he does any more damage.” Martha moved around the bed, finding Peter’s flailing hand and wrapping it around hers. “I’m here, Peter,” she said. “I’m right here.” She tried to focus on his eyes, not wanƟng to look at the blood, the swelling, the way his body looked so broken. “I told you to wait outside,” Doctor Harris snapped at her. “She stays,” Peter snapped right back at him, turning his gaze to her. “Take care of the castle for me, Martha, won’t you? Don’t let her get her claws into it.

” “Don’t worry,” she replied, squeezing his hand. “You’re not going anywhere.” “He’s going downhill,” someone shouted. A nurse took Martha by the arm, pulling her away as the acƟvity grew more franƟc, Peter’s eyes closing. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s wait outside for a minute.” Martha looked back over her shoulder at the man who had taken her in, who had looked after her, given her a new life. He was out of sight, there were too many people around him. Once in the corridor the nurse paused to say, “If there’s anyone important in his life, you should ring them,” before heading back inside, leaving Martha to walk in a daze towards the chairs at the end of the corridor, the subtext all too obvious from the nurse’s expression. She sank into a chair, realising her hands were trembling. Was he dying? Should she ring Ben? She had never spoken to Benjamin Robertson, his son. She’d had the pleasure of taking a number of calls from the ex-Mrs Robertson, each of them laced with passive aggressive abuse aimed at Peter. But of the son, she knew only his name and his number. She knew his name because there was a framed photograph in the office at the castle of him as a boy. She knew his number because it was listed in the ancient phonebook that lived on the desk next to the enamel Dad’s Army mug filled with pens and the ledger which Peter sƟll used instead of a computer to keep his accounts in check.

The phone number might not even be up to date. Should she try and ring him? Peter had menƟoned that he had a son who he didn’t speak to, though she didn’t know why. She was just taking her phone out of her pocket when she noƟced the sign on the opposite wall, a mobile phone in a red circle with a line through the middle. Standing up, she walked slowly back to the recepƟon area, heading outside and taking a deep breath of night air. She rang Chloe. “Hi,” she said when Chloe answered. “I know it’s your day off but I need you to do something for me.” Chloe was a decent if ditsy employee. She was eighteen, had been working at the castle for a year and luckily didn’t ask any quesƟons about why she was being sent back to work on her day off and long aŌer closing Ɵme. She rang Martha back ten minutes later. “I’ve got the number for you,” she said. “It was in the book like you said. Are you ready?” “Hold on.” Martha put her on speaker, geƫng ready to type the numbers in as they were said. Once she had it, she thanked Chloe before hanging up.

She paused for a second. What was she even going to say? You don’t know me but your father is dying and you need to get over to York. What if the number wasn’t valid anymore? She thought about Peter, about how the doctors and nurses had looked as they dashed around him. How she’d regret it if she didn’t even try. Then she rang the number Chloe had given her and waited for Benjamin Robertson to answer.


PDF | Download

Thank you!

Updated: 16 June 2020 — 22:48

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Chapter1.us © 2018 | Descargar Libros Gratis | Kitap İndir |