Read on for an exclusive extract from ‘Some One’s There’ by Diane Saxon.
Some One’s There
Monday, 3 February, 2115 hrs
Dark laughter bubbled up from the depths of his blackened soul and reverberated around the four walls of the single-accommodation concrete cell in HM Long Lartin prison.
He blinked in the dimness of the grey light that was never quite dark enough as he slipped the burner phone from his pocket. Odds were it would be confiscated within a couple of days, as soon as the prison guards did their next sweep, but it wasn’t difficult to hide a SIM card. Searches weren’t always as thorough as they should be, especially if the guard was a lazy arse. They got that way when you nurtured them, lulled them into a false sense of security by behaving well enough until they trusted you.
He depressed the side button for a moment before he let the basic retro ‘dumbphone’ kick-start. With a battery life of almost a month, the phone was easily disposable and cheap to replace, provided he could persuade one of the new boys to pick it up from where his mate lobbed it over the wall. It was never an issue, provided he also persuaded him to put a few tabs in with it as a reward for the collector.
A quiver buzzed through his warmed blood and he stifled the excitement before it turned to a raging torrent of uncontrollable exhilaration.
He clamped his jaw closed, air hissing through his clenched teeth as he shaded the overly bright screen with his meaty fist and squinted at the single text. It didn’t matter if the number was blocked. He had no intention of replying. He didn’t need evidence of a link between them, but the connection would be more than obvious.
His lips kicked up at the sides. Another evil chuckle escaped him as he scanned the single word.
Monday, 3 February, 2315 hrs
The orange glow of street lamps flickered through the windows of the Uber car as Marcia Davies reclined in the rear seat, her head a gentle fuzz of alcoholic anaesthesia. Not sufficient to excise the pain of her broken heart, just enough to dull it for a short while.
She swiped her finger right over her phone to reject yet another hopeful candidate on Y’ello, the dating app she’d recently downloaded and soon regretted for its useless addictiveness.
She raised her head to stare out of the window at the insipid rain she knew still wept the icy winter’s chill that seeped bone-deep. She went to swipe again and clenched her jaw at the sight of the vague tremble in her fingers. Dammit, it wasn’t like her to be a coward.
She was strong.
She’d withstood so much. Rejection, humiliation. She could continue to withstand the intimidation, the menace.
Her chest expanded as she drew in a long breath and then blew it out again. She could do this. She had to do it.
She didn’t have a choice.
As the Uber drew up outside her compact two bedroom terrace house in Lawley, a ripple of fear threaded through her. Fear of what she’d find this time.
When she and Ray had bought one of the brand new homes in the Telford expansion phase two years previously, she’d lavished her love on the place and him. On the outer edges of Telford, it was a short hop to spill over into Ironbridge and beyond to Much Wenlock. An idyllic village lifestyle located so it was just as easy to reach the M54 as it was the farmers’ fields.
Instead of sharing space with Ray’s mother and stepfather, as they had for several years until they’d saved the deposit for their house, she’d taken pride in furnishing her own space. Delighted that for the first time in her life she had something that would reflect her taste, her style.
Unfortunately, Ray had not been of the same mind. He hadn’t even had the decency to leave her for a younger woman. Not that he could have found anyone much younger than Marcia when he’d met her. She’d been seventeen. Eighteen and still at university when they moved in with his mother and stepfather together. Once qualified, she’d thought the world was at her feet and within the span of a few short years, the prospect of promotion had been a viable one. They’d lived the golden life.
The peace and tranquillity of a suburban lifestyle with the security of neighbours she’d barely had the chance to get to know as everyone worked. Her shifts at The Princess Royal, Telford’s main hospital, rarely afforded her the opportunity to make friends outside her own circle of work colleagues. She’d been happy enough with that arrangement. Until recently. Until she’d been ostracised by half of her work colleagues and the other half treated her as though she was about to break apart. She was.
She stared at the ‘For Sale’ sign in the neat patch of a front garden as it dripped with rain and misery.
The security she believed she had disappeared in a wisp of mist as she glanced at the house that no longer felt like her home. Not since Ray had left.
The fast clench in her stomach had her gripping the phone to her chest.
He may have left, but she’d been unable to stop him from returning.
‘You all right, bab?’ Powerful Birmingham laced the driver’s words. The gentle term of endearment pulled her back to the present while she stared blankly at the taxi driver, her gaze meeting the watery blue of his in the rear view mirror. She remembered where she was. Embarrassment surged through her to nudge away the blur of alcohol. She fumbled as she dipped her hand hastily into her purse for the fare while he turned in his seat to face her.
‘You’re all right, bab. He already paid for you.’ At her vacant stare, the driver nodded. ‘Your young man, back there. He paid.’
Not her young man. Never likely to be. She zipped her purse closed, snapped her phone off and slipped it into her pocket, her gaze pulled back to the dark foreboding of the empty house.
A sliver of dread prickled her skin at the prospect of getting out of the safety of the car. Ray had done that to her. Made her scared of her own shadow, with his sly insistence that she’d lost her mind. The irony of it was, she had succumbed to the insanity of his mind games. His clever little tricks to make her frightened in her own home.
Marcia squeezed her eyes closed and gulped down the scalding acid threatening to bubble up the back of her throat into her mouth. She touched trembling fingertips to her lips and breathed in through her nose as the heat of the Uber pressed in on her, thick and claustrophobic. She dragged in another breath, almost choking on the sweet, cloying scent of the cherry shaped air freshener which dangled from the driver’s rear view mirror and gave an erratic sway as the driver hefted his large frame out of the car and moved around to yank her door open.
The fast rush of cold draught had her eyes popping open as she heaved in a quick gasp of refreshing air while the biting wind ripped at the thin layers of clothes only suitable for a date in a warm, cosy restaurant, not a late night walk, even if it was only to her front door.
Icy fingers of panic stole along her spine as Marcia shot her gaze up to the darkened bedroom windows in the fear of what Ray may have done while she’d been out. Had he sneaked in to break another cup, move a precious lamp, take away a kitchen appliance? He’d already had the television, leaving her with nothing but her laptop to watch programmes on.
A shiver took a hold of her and she clenched her teeth, her jaw popping in her ears.
‘C’mon, now love, you’ve had too much to drink. I wish you girls would take better care of yourselves.’ An edge of iron had crept into the driver’s voice as he held open the door, his face set in disapproval.
‘Sorry. I’m so sorry.’
Embarrassed, Marcia stumbled from the taxi, muttering a ‘thank you’ as she tripped along the neatly edged pathway, desperate to escape her humiliation.
Not so desperate she didn’t hang onto the door frame, reluctant to enter the house as her world spun. She should never have drunk so much. She stabbed her key into the lock, only succeeding in inserting it on the third try, aware of the presence of the Uber driver as he waited at the end of her pathway, his engine running. It should have made her feel safe, but the danger wasn’t so much outside where the street lamps cast puddles of light onto the wet pavements. Her fear came from the silent stillness of her own house.
With her back to the lawn, she refused to turn around and look at the single word Ray had burned into it with weedkiller. She didn’t have to look; it was etched on her mind.
As though she’d been the one who’d cheated, and he wanted all the neighbours to know. Well, they thought they knew, and oh, how they judged.
She lowered her forehead to rest it against the chilly glass in the front door as the insistent drizzle seeped through her thin coat to send goose bumps chasing over her flesh. With a quiet sob, she raised her head, turned the key and stepped inside.
As she paused in the open doorway, more than willing to absorb the comfort she’d always taken from the house, a swift rush of fear washed over her to make her flesh crawl.
Without looking back to check if the driver still watched, Marcia slipped inside and snapped the door closed. Her fingers trembled as she pushed the door handle up and turned the lock, engaging the five-lock mechanism.
She glanced up the darkened stairwell, her heart thundering. The silence pressed down.
Disgusted with herself for allowing her imagination to run roughshod over her, Marcia straightened her shoulders and raised her chin. It was rubbish. Whatever the hell Ray thought he was doing, he wasn’t going to intimidate her. The creaks and bumps she’d only heard in the last few days since he’d sent a solicitor’s letter the week before demanding she sell the house. It was on the market. It wouldn’t sell any faster just because he was trying to strong-arm her.
It was his fault the last couple simply drove off after seeing that word emblazoned over the front lawn.
Did he even regret his impulsive action in a fit of temper a couple of weeks earlier when they’d argued over the sofa? She’d refused to let him have it, showed him proof that she’d paid for it and threatened to report him to the police.
Just to prove he could, he’d returned once she’d gone to work. Left the box of weedkiller on the bench. It was a few days later it dawned on her what he’d done.
He may have damaged the lawn, but there was no way he’d physically harm her. Surely?
He’d loved her once.
Emotions rocked wildly with the adrenaline shot of alcohol, sending her from the edge of tears to anger, frustration, fear.
The sheer cruelty of it almost brought her to her knees as grief struck her in a violent blast.
Infuriated with her uncharacteristic weakness, she ground her teeth as she strode through to the kitchen, dipped her hand into her pocket and tossed her mobile phone onto the smooth wooden counter next to the almost empty bottle of wine she’d managed to consume before she’d gone out.
She frowned as she tried to remember where she’d left the glass, sure she’d brought it from upstairs when she was about to leave for the evening.
She opened a cupboard and snatched out a clean glass, spilling the wine over the side as she sloshed the last of it from the bottle.
Tears pricked the back of her eyes as she took a deep slug and allowed humiliation to flow over her.
She’d made a mistake.
She wasn’t damned well ready to date. Three months. It was hardly a lifetime since Ray had left. Barely a blink since he’d announced he had another woman. Even less when he told her last week that his new woman was pregnant. Another hard blow in a long string of them.
She stripped off her damp coat and slung it over the back of one of her kitchen chairs.
She hadn’t the blindest clue why she’d gone out for drinks with the young police officer. Other than the girls at work telling her to get back out there – enjoy herself. Enjoy! As if that was about to happen. Feel like an attractive woman again, they’d told her, not the piece of unattractive shit Ray had made her feel like.
She thought dating a police officer might make her feel safe. Just for a short while.
She placed her hands either side of the small kitchen sink and hung her head low.
Even that, she couldn’t get right. He hadn’t wanted her either. She’d read it in his eyes within minutes of their meeting. Pity had lurked there as she drank too much, talked too loud, sounded a little too desperate. Pity and rejection.
Rejection. It was the last thing she’d needed tonight. If only he’d been a little more interested and a little less noble. Noble he may have been, but he’d lied about his age. She hadn’t minded a younger man. He’d told her he was twenty-five. From his baby-face features and skinny frame, he’d been nowhere near that age. Twenty-one at the oldest. She could hardly hold it against him, though. She’d lied too. She’d claimed she was twenty-five when she was pushing twenty-eight. It just went to show what a soft focus camera, subtle make-up and a naïve mind could achieve when dealing with the dating app community.
A quiet moan slipped from her lips and then stuck in her throat as she raised her head and held her breath to listen. Her own watery reflection stared back at her from the rain splattered kitchen window she’d yet to close the blinds on. She never did. Why would she? It only overlooked the barren wasteland that was about to be built on. No neighbours beyond their small garden yet.
Still, the pitch black closed in.
She reached out a hand to yank them down, then halted. Eyes narrowed, she watched herself as she tilted her head and concentrated, sure the muted sound she’d heard came from upstairs. A sound she’d heard a number of times over the last few days. A breath, a movement. A quiet shuffle. As though someone was up there.
Goose bumps pebbled her forearms, making the fine hairs stand on end, the stroke of feather-light fingers drawing a line along her spine to make her flesh tingle and crawl.
She blinked eyes awash with tears while she waited and listened, letting the rhythmic tick of the kitchen clock fill the silence in the room and mark time as it slipped away. She was working too hard, doing too much. She had so much more to do, living alone. Her twelve-hour shifts left her exhausted.
She breathed, her dizzy mind whirling.
Ray still had his own key to the front door. Had he slipped in? Was he up there, trying to frighten her?
The low-life bastard. She should have called the damned police. Instead she’d tried to date one. To bring her sanity and protection. It had brought her neither, just a sick sense of shame. Poor boy.
She’d contact the police tomorrow. Report Ray. He was an arse, but an arse who had escalated his attempts to intimidate her. And he’d succeeded.
Bitterness curdled her stomach.
She hitched in a desperate sob. She took another healthy gulp of wine and watched her eyes harden in her mirrored reflection.
An elusive trail of evidence of his visits greeted her each time she came home. The mean pig. Subtle insults, as if leaving her wasn’t enough of a blow. Her favourite bone china mug, the one he’d bought her from Royal Worcester in happier times, in the cupboard, the handle shattered into several pieces. At first, she thought it had been an accident, perhaps she’d caught it with another piece of crockery and not noticed. But the build up of incidents negated that. Missing underwear, her newly ironed uniform in a heap on the floor, an entire roll of toilet paper dropped down the loo, the radio left playing.
He’d taken the TV, the thoughtless moron. He’d bought it for her the Christmas before last. It belonged to her and he’d taken it.
Annoyance whipped through the self-pity. She’d bloody kill Ray if he’d decided to sneak around the house, the thoughtless little prat.
Nothing but silence greeted her.
To the count of ten, she let out her breath. In, to the count of five.
Overwhelmed by a multitude of emotions, she squeezed her eyes closed. She was going to her mum’s.
The soft whisper of a breath stroked over her consciousness. Her eyes flew open and she reared her head back. Her heart stumbled to a halt, then thundered violently, the wild thrum of it lodging in her throat to choke off her breath mid-stream.
A ghostly shadow reflected in her window stood in the kitchen behind her.
Marcia whipped around. That weasel of an ex-boyfriend.
Confusion chased every coherent thought from her alcohol infused mind.
Dread crushed her chest until she could barely draw a breath.
She opened her mouth and her voice cracked on a desperate gasp.
‘You’re not Ray.’
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