Black Days - a Murder Notebooks short story

Page 1

0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd i

30/08/2013 14:16:32

0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd iii

30/08/2013 14:16:33


Since her mother had gone missing Rose Smith had had to do everything for herself. ‘Have you packed your bags?’ Pat said. Rose nodded. One of her bags, a pink rucksack with some glitter on it, was sitting by her feet. Her other bag, a small holdall, was by the front door. In it she’d placed enough clothes for about four days. By that time her mother would have come back. Pat, the policewoman who had been staying with her and Joshua, had told her that she could return for more stuff if necessary. But she wouldn’t need to. Rose was sure. Any time over the next few days she would get a phone call to say that her mother, Kathy Smith, had turned up, along with Joshua’s father, Brendan Johnson. Then they would both come home again and life would go on as it had before. To expect anything else was unthinkable. ‘Has there been any news?’ Rose said.


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 1

30/08/2013 14:16:33

Pat had been on her mobile a few moments before and Rose thought there might have been new developments. The policewoman shook her head and picked up her own bag, which had been sitting on the sofa against a couple of pillows and a folded duvet. They were waiting for a car to come and take Joshua and Rose to the house of Paul and Alice Townsend, the foster carers. Rose had no relatives – no aunts, no uncles, no one she could go to. Joshua had an uncle who lived in Newcastle but was adamant that he wanted to stay with Rose. The house was nearby, Pat had said, only a fifteen minute walk, but they would go in the car because of the bags. The first few days after Kathy and Brendan went missing Rose and Joshua heard a lot of news. Their parents were police officers who worked on cold cases and often investigated dangerous criminals. On the night they disappeared they had gone out for a meal in their favourite restaurant and simply didn’t come home. Pat, the family liaison officer, told them that the couple had paid the bill and gone outside on to the street. No one had seen them since. Potential witnesses had been interviewed. House-to-house enquiries had been started. The police were following up new leads and also looking at the old case files Brendan and Kathy had been working on. Rose imagined the police station as a hive of activity.


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 2

30/08/2013 14:16:35

All that work and here they were, days later, without a single clue as to what had happened to them. They had vanished. Rose was amazed and horrified at the same time. She’d pictured her mum and Brendan going out into the street, closing the restaurant door behind them, and stepping into some portal, slipping out of the life they’d known, into . . . what? Some alternative universe? Another existence? She’d tried to explain this to Joshua and he had laughed: not a real laugh but a pretend one. Ha-ha! So she didn’t say any more to him. Not one single person saw anything. They left their car round the corner from the restaurant. They left their children in their bedrooms wondering why they hadn’t come home. ‘Are you ready, Rose?’ Pat said. ‘The car should be here in a minute.’ Rose stood very still. No, she wasn’t ready. ‘Why can’t we stay here? We can look after ourselves.’ ‘It’s not allowed.’ ‘What about the house?’ ‘Officers will be here. They’ll want to search everything.’ ‘For clues?’ Rose said hopefully. ‘Probably.’ There were footsteps on the stairs. They were heavy and slow. Just behind every footfall was the sound of


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 3

30/08/2013 14:16:35

something bumping down a step. Pat went out into the hall and Rose followed. Joshua was standing at the bottom of the stairs. He had a big suitcase with him. ‘I said to take just a few things,’ Pat said gently. ‘I need all this stuff,’ Joshua said brusquely. ‘Has it got wheels at least?’ Joshua shook his head. ‘It’s an old case of my dad’s. I can carry it.’ He picked it up and Rose heard a chinking sound. ‘What have you got in there? It sounds like a toolbox.’ Joshua didn’t answer. There was a knock at the front door. They both looked hopeful. Most people used the bell but Brendan always liked the knocker. Two loud taps that could be heard at the end of the street. Pat opened it. It was a uniformed officer holding his car keys. ‘Ready?’ he said. ‘Let’s go,’ said Pat. ‘Wait.’ Rose took her key ring from the row of hooks by the front door. It held a Yale key and a Chubb. Attached to it was a tiny teddy bear. Joshua had bought it as a present weeks before to stop her from losing her keys. It’s a teddy bear! she’d said. You can’t give me toys! She’d used it, anyway, much to the amusement of her school friends. ‘You don’t need that,’ Pat said.


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 4

30/08/2013 14:16:35

‘I do,’ she said, holding the keys in the grip of her hand, looking at Pat and at the new policeman as if daring either of them to try and take it from her. ‘I need it for when I come back. When Mum and Brendan come back. I need it for then.’ Pat gave the other policeman a glance. ‘Come on, Rosie,’ Joshua said. They went out of the house.


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 5

30/08/2013 14:16:35


After meeting Paul and Alice they both went into their rooms to unpack. They were next door to each other. Joshua’s bedroom was bigger than Rose’s. Lunch was in half an hour, Paul had said, before leaving them alone. Rose had her stuff out of her bags in moments. Then she sat on the bed and looked round the tiny room. She could hear Joshua moving around so she went in to see him. On the floor was the opened suitcase. As well as containing some of his clothes she could see a set of screwdrivers and spanners and an old clock, wrapped in bubble wrap. Rose had never seen it before. ‘I picked it up at a car boot sale. Dad liked it so I was going to fix it for him.’ Joshua was wearing a jumper that was too big for him. He had the sleeves turned back several times. ‘How long do you think we’ll be here?’ she said. ‘I don’t know,’ Joshua said. ‘A couple of days? A week?’


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 6

30/08/2013 14:16:35

‘I don’t know any more than you do, Rosie,’ he said, exasperation showing in his tone. Rose felt her eyes prickle with tears. He looked at her and seemed to deflate. He stepped across and put his arm round her and pulled her into a hug. ‘They will come back. We both know that. They wouldn’t leave us on our own. They just wouldn’t.’ A male voice came from downstairs. ‘Rose, Joshua. It’s lunch!’ They weren’t the only ones staying with Paul and Alice. When they got downstairs there was a boy of about Joshua’s age sitting at the table wearing his coat. Across from him was a small girl sucking her thumb, her eyes on a television set in the corner. There were pictures but no sound. ‘This is Sally who’s been staying with us for a couple of weeks while her mother’s in hospital,’ Paul said. ‘And this is Steven.’ No further explanation was given. Rose glanced at the television. ‘Sally likes to have the television on. It makes her feel secure,’ Alice said, putting a plate of sandwiches in front of Rose. Steven ate his sandwiches without a word, leaving the crusts. When he’d finished, he stood up from the table, fitted the chair in tightly and walked away. ‘See you later, Steven?’ Alice called out.


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 7

30/08/2013 14:16:37

There was no answer. ‘What’s up with him?’ Joshua said. ‘He finds it difficult to communicate with people,’ Paul said. ‘He prefers to be alone. He spends a lot of his time working on his bike. Pat said that you like to fix things, Joshua? Maybe you could help him?’ Joshua bridled. ‘I won’t be here long enough. I’ll be off home in a couple of days.’ ‘Well, if you change your mind, the bike’s in the garage.’ Rose looked at Sally, who was chewing her sandwich, staring at the silent television screen. The girl suddenly turned and looked at Rose, her blue eyes piercing. ‘Sally’s going to big school next year, Rose. Perhaps you could tell her what it’s like,’ Alice said. Rose was instantly cross. They were trying to split her and Joshua up. Trying to get Joshua to make friends with the silent boy and then push this strange girl on to Rose. She stood up. ‘I’m not very hungry. I’m going to my room.’ Alice smiled at her. She didn’t seem put out by Rose leaving the table. Upstairs she closed her door and sat on the bed. She half expected to hear Joshua’s footsteps following her but there was no sound of him. Later, after she’d lain down and sat up a few times, after she’d tidied up her things, she walked across to the window. It looked out on to the back garden. She could see, on the patio, Joshua and


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 8

30/08/2013 14:16:37

Steven beside a bike that was resting upside down on its seat and handlebars. Joshua was squatting down and Steven was spinning one of the wheels. Rose crossed her arms and huffed. Had Joshua forgotten why they were there?


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 9

30/08/2013 14:16:37


Rose’s phone rang at nine o’clock that evening. It was plugged into the charger and was sitting on the small chest of drawers in her room. She got up off the bed and picked it up. There was a number – not a name – on the screen. ‘Hello?’ There was no answer. Just silence. She disconnected the call and put the phone down again. Then she frowned and returned the call. The number hadn’t been recognised by her phone. She wondered who it could have been. She’d only had the phone since September. She had numbers for her mum, Brendan and Joshua, as well as some of her school friends. No one else ever rang her. The number rang for a while but there was no answer. She was still thinking about it when a knock sounded on the door. It opened and Alice stood there. ‘I just wondered if you have everything you need?’


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 10

30/08/2013 14:16:37

Rose nodded. Alice stepped into the room. She was wearing jeans and a loose top and she had lots of jewellery on. There were bangles on each wrist and rings on at least three fingers. She also had a necklace and earrings. Rose couldn’t help but look at them. ‘I always wear lots of accessories,’ Alice said, shaking her wrists. ‘These were all bought for me by my children.’ ‘You have your own children?’ Rose said, puzzled. ‘I mean the children who come and stay here. They are my children. Sometimes they only stay for a few days but I still think of them as mine. For that short time. Your stay here will be temporary, Rose. I really do hope that your family problems are sorted out.’ Family problems. She meant the disappearance of her mother and Brendan. ‘The others, Sally and Steven, they’ll be here for much longer. Their parents aren’t missing, as yours are, but they might as well be. Be kind to them.’ ‘Of course,’ Rose said, stiffening. Alice smiled at her. ‘Just call me if you need anything. We like you to be in your bedroom by ten. You can watch television or play music as long as you keep the noise down. If you wake up in the night and need someone, come and knock on my door. Our bedroom is just below yours.’ ‘Thanks, but I’ll be OK.’


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 11

30/08/2013 14:16:38

‘Goodnight.’ The door closed behind her just as Rose’s phone started to ring. She picked it up. ‘Hello?’ she said. No one spoke. ‘Who is this?’ She was about to end the call but something stopped her. She listened. The silence was like a wall but behind it she was sure she could hear someone breathing. She pushed the phone hard against her ear and closed her eyes so that she could concentrate. There it was. An inhalation. Breathing in and breathing out. Someone was there. For a second she thought she heard a whisper of her name. Rose. ‘Mum?’ she said. ‘Mum?’ The call ended. She clutched the phone tightly. Had she imagined the sounds? Had she heard only what she wanted to hear? Was she going a tiny bit mad?


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 12

30/08/2013 14:16:38


They settled into a routine. They got up between seven and eight. When Rose was dressed she left Joshua upstairs and went down for breakfast and watched as Sally and Steven went off to school. Steven was picked up by a minicab and left without saying goodbye. Alice took Sally, who spent a long time collecting together her bag, her reading book, her lunch box, her coat. There was always a moment just before they left when it looked like Sally might not be persuaded to go. Alice was patient, though, and told her about the television programmes she’d be able to watch that afternoon when she came back from school. When they left Rose sat in the kitchen and finished her breakfast, waiting for Joshua. They didn’t have to go to school. They were living in a kind of limbo. Paul worked from home. All day long Rose could hear him tapping on his computer and now and then talking on the telephone. When Alice returned from the school


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 13

30/08/2013 14:16:38

run she spent her time in the kitchen and garden. Sometimes Rose walked in and saw that she was sketching in a small chunky pad. Alice let Rose look at her drawings: birds and plants mostly but sometimes there were cups and saucers and jugs, all taken from a wooden dresser that sat at one end of the kitchen. Mostly, Rose and Joshua were left alone. It was a relief. They filled the days by talking, reading, watching television. They were allowed to cook their own lunch and were encouraged to go out to the shops or go to the library. They spent a lot of time in Joshua’s bedroom. Rose sat on the bed while Joshua fiddled with the old clock that he’d brought with him. From the front it looked fine – a round moon face with roman numerals, the time stopped at twenty past three. ‘It’s not completely broken,’ Joshua said. ‘It’s right twice a day.’ ‘How do you mean?’ Rose said, her face screwed up. ‘At twenty past three in the afternoon and in the middle of the night – it’s right!’ Rose thought about it. Then she realised that it was a joke. ‘I get it,’ she said, a half-smile on her lips. But instantly the tears came. Were they making jokes now? Her mum had been gone for almost seven days and they were laughing. Joshua was looking away from her so she brushed the tears away and tried to pull herself together.


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 14

30/08/2013 14:16:39

The back of the clock was off and there were several bits of it on the side. ‘Will you be able to fix it?’ she said. ‘Yeah. Then I’ll give it to Dad when he comes back.’ Their eyes met. Unspoken thoughts seemed to move between them. Joshua’s eyes were strong, steely. Rose trusted them. Joshua knew what he was talking about. Every couple of days Paul rang the police from his study. Rose and Joshua were invited into the room. Rose sat on an armchair and Joshua stood just inside the door. The handset was on his desk. It was a wireless receiver so he could have walked round with it or rung from anywhere else in the house. He preferred to make the phone call from there. He asked to speak to Pat Richardson, the family liaison officer. Rose sat completely still while the conversation went on. Paul’s desk was covered in bits of paper and files and books. It didn’t look as though anything was in any kind of order. Rose found herself wanting to tidy it. ‘That was hopeful,’ Paul said, replacing the handset. ‘They think they might have a new lead.’ ‘Really?’ Joshua said, straightening up, walking further into Paul’s room. ‘They’ve been looking at some of your parents’ old cases and think they may have been the target of one or other of the criminals they were investigating.’ ‘What do you mean, target?’ Rose said.


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 15

30/08/2013 14:16:39

‘He means that the people they investigated – the criminals – might have wanted to get rid of Dad and Kathy,’ Joshua said. ‘Get rid of them? You mean they might have killed them?’ ‘No, that wasn’t the impression I was given,’ Paul said hastily. ‘The suggestion was that they might have had to drop out of sight for a while. Go to ground.’ ‘So they might be in hiding?’ ‘Maybe. The police haven’t found any . . .’ ‘What?’ Rose said, frustrated at the way the conversation was going. ‘They haven’t found any bodies, Rosie. That’s good. Maybe they’ll come out of hiding when things look better.’ ‘Maybe,’ Paul said. Rose smiled. They would come out of hiding. Then they could all go back to their old house again.


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 16

30/08/2013 14:16:39


In the days that followed there was no fresh news. ‘No bodies have been found, Rosie. That’s the most important thing,’ Joshua said. Rose ran out of clothes but she didn’t go back home because Alice washed them for her. She also saw her ironing some of Joshua’s things. Late one evening Joshua called her into his room. He was whispering but Rose didn’t know why. Neither Steven nor Sally ever came up to the top floor and Rose could hear Alice and Paul’s voices from downstairs in the kitchen. ‘I’ve been thinking.’ Rose sat on Joshua’s bed. She made herself comfortable. Since being there they’d had a few long discussions about what had happened. It made Rose feel good, talking about her mum and Brendan. As if mentioning their names often was a way of keeping them nearby. ‘About what Paul said the other day. About Dad and Kathy being in hiding. It makes perfect sense in a way


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 17

30/08/2013 14:16:39

and it means that they will come back when whatever danger is threatening them has gone. So it’s really about playing a waiting game.’ Rose nodded. She would wait as long as it took. ‘The thing is this foster placement is meant to be temporary. You know – until they decide what to do with us.’ Rose frowned. Alice and Paul had told them that when they first arrived. This was a short stay. Rose hadn’t taken much notice of the conversation because, for her, this was always going to be a short stay. She was going to go home and be with her mother again. Now they’d been there for ten days. ‘What I’m thinking,’ Joshua went on, ‘is that we should speak to Paul and Alice about allowing us to stay for longer – weeks, maybe even months – until it’s safe for Dad and Kathy to come out of hiding. That way we’re close to school and not far from the house. We could go back there sometimes. Make sure everything’s all right, get our stuff. We could keep it tidy. Maybe I could even paint the upstairs hallway. Your mum was always going on at Dad about it.’ That was true. There had been some strong words about how long it was taking Brendan to get round to painting the hallway. ‘We can just look at it as if we’re staying with friends for a while. And then when the time is right they can come and get us.’


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 18

30/08/2013 14:16:40

‘Yes,’ Rose said, her heart lifting, ‘it’s just temporary.’ ‘Shall I speak to them? Tomorrow? After Alice comes back from taking Sally to school.’ Rose nodded. Nothing seemed so bad when Joshua talked about it. Everything was hopeful.


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 19

30/08/2013 14:16:40


The next day, after Alice took Sally to school, the front door bell rang. ‘You must be Rose,’ a young woman said. ‘I’m your social worker, Sue Phillips.’ ‘Alice isn’t in,’ Rose said. ‘That’s OK. She knows I’m coming. I’m just running a little early.’ Paul came into the hall behind her. ‘Hello, Sue. Come in. You and Rose can use the living room.’ ‘Shall I get Joshua?’ Rose said. ‘No, Rose, it’s you I need to speak to,’ Sue said. Rose followed her into the room at the front of the house which was usually occupied by Sally. Now it was empty and the television was just a blank screen. The room felt unnaturally quiet as Rose sat down on the far end of the sofa. ‘Tea, Sue?’ ‘No thanks, Paul.’


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 20

30/08/2013 14:16:40

The door closed and for the first time Rose noticed the absence of Joshua. In all the days since their parents had gone missing Joshua had been right by her side. Every time they’d heard anything he’d been there within arm’s reach. Now she was on her own. She was puzzled by this. ‘Rose, we’ve not met before and I must start by saying how sorry I am about your situation. I understand from Pat, the family liaison officer, that the police are still no closer to finding your mum –’ ‘Or Brendan. Joshua’s dad.’ ‘No. And that is very unfortunate.’ ‘The police think they might be in hiding,’ Rose said. ‘It just might take longer for them to come home than we first thought.’ ‘I hope so, Rose, but right now we have to think about what’s best for you. That’s why I’m here, you see, because I have some very good news.’ Rose frowned at Sue Phillips. ‘What about Joshua? Why aren’t you telling him?’ ‘Joshua’s social worker will be coming to see him later. It’s you I really want to focus on.’ ‘Why haven’t we got the same social worker?’ ‘Well, because. Well, Rose. I have something exciting to tell you!’ Rose sat back on the chair and crossed her arms. ‘We were researching your background and we’ve found something very surprising. You have a grandmother! Isn’t


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 21

30/08/2013 14:16:42

that amazing? A grandmother who you’ve never met. And she didn’t even know about you! It seems that she and your mother had a falling-out many years ago, before you were born. There’s been no contact between them for a long time so she didn’t know she had a grandchild. It was a huge surprise to her. And she’s very keen to meet you. In fact we’re due to go to her home this afternoon. At three o’clock.’ The door opened suddenly and Sue turned around. Joshua was standing there. He looked at Rose quizzically and then at the social worker. ‘What’s going on?’ he said.


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 22

30/08/2013 14:16:42


The trip to her grandmother’s house seemed to take for ever. She lived in Belsize Park in North London. Rose was taken there in Sue Phillips’ car. The social worker talked about her all the way. Her name was Anna Christie. The surname Christie had also been her mother’s name before she changed it to Smith. She was a very wealthy woman who did a lot of charity work and was involved in local arts projects, particularly those concerning music. The falling-out between her and her daughter was a mystery and her grandmother was very keen to get to know Rose, even in such difficult circumstances. Difficult circumstances. She meant the fact that her dear, funny, sweet mother had gone. Rose sat in the passenger seat as close to the window as she could. She didn’t say much to Sue Phillips, just let her talk on about the importance of maintaining blood relations and temporary solutions to the current dilemmas. Joshua was seeing his social worker while she was out.


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 23

30/08/2013 14:16:42

There’d been word from his uncle in Newcastle, who wanted Joshua to go and stay with him for a while. North London looked different to where they’d lived. The houses had flat fronts and were three and four storeys high. Rose didn’t like it. When they turned off a busy road into a quiet street she felt tension building up in her shoulders. The houses here were huge and they had high hedges in front of them. Rose could see alarm boxes on the exterior of the buildings and cameras on corners. Sue Phillips parked outside number seventeen. Rose got out. They walked up to the door. Sue Phillips gave an encouraging smile. ‘Your grandmother sounded lovely on the telephone. It’ll be so good for you to meet her for the first time.’ Rose waited while Sue rang the bell. There was a long period when nothing seemed to happen. Was she not at home? Rose thought for a moment that the arrangements had been mixed up and she would be able to go back to Alice and Paul’s. But as she was about to say this the door opened and a tall woman stood there. Rose looked up at her. There was no resemblance to her mother at all. This woman had straight hair which hung around her face. Every hair seemed to be the same length, smooth and tidy, as if the hairdresser had measured it with a ruler. At the front was a single streak of grey. ‘You must be Rose,’ she said, smiling.


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 24

30/08/2013 14:16:43

Rose didn’t know what to do. Was she supposed to hug this woman she had never seen before? She hesitated and found herself taking a step backwards. The woman looked puzzled but then she stepped towards her, holding her hand out. ‘You can call me Anna,’ she said, grabbing hold of Rose’s fingers and shaking them vigorously.


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 25

30/08/2013 14:16:43


The next few days were spent making plans. Rose and Joshua went back to their old house to pack more things. They were upstairs and when Joshua came out of the box room with two bags of stuff he said, ‘It’ll be temporary. I’ll stay with my uncle. You’ll stay with your grandmother. As soon as Dad and Kathy come out of hiding we’ll be together again.’ Rose agreed. In her head, though, she remembered Joshua saying that they would stay with Paul and Alice, go back to school, be near their old house to get it ready for when their parents came home. Joshua was going to paint the upstairs hallway. Now she looked along that same landing and saw the cream walls, grubby from years of people rubbing against them. It would stay as it was. She packed her belongings but made sure she left plenty of her things there. She picked up her violin and wasn’t sure whether or not to take it. In the end she decided she


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 26

30/08/2013 14:16:43

should and placed it on top of her case. Then she went into her mum and Brendan’s bedroom and smoothed the duvet and fixed the small cushions neatly across the pillows. When they returned they would be pleased to see everything tidy and nice. On their last night in the foster home Paul and Alice gave them a special meal. Steven ate his quickly and left the table as usual. Sally stared at the mute television throughout the meal. Paul and Alice chatted to Joshua about Newcastle and his uncle, who was a history teacher. Rose thought about her grandmother and the handshake. She had felt long nails against her fingers and later, when her grandmother was showing Rose around her house, she’d studied them. They had been manicured, painted pale pink, like shells. They contrasted with her plain clothes and the heavy gold chain she wore round her neck. She was nothing like her mum. After Rose finished packing she went into Joshua’s room. His bags were lined up by the wall and he was watching his television. He turned the sound down as she sat beside him on the bed. She crossed her arms, her shoulders rounded. ‘Hey, cheer up! Nothing’s changed. Dad and Kathy are still in hiding.’ ‘How can you be sure?’ ‘They haven’t found any bodies, Rosie. That’s how I know.’


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 27

30/08/2013 14:16:43

Rose understood. It wasn’t something she liked to dwell on. The finding of their bodies. It made her think of her mum lying still and quiet, her skin pale and cold, like a doll. Once a body was found Rose knew her mum would never speak again or laugh at Brendan’s jokes or pretend to dance around at Rose’s music. But no bodies had been found. And Rose remembered the silent phone call she had received on the day they had arrived at Paul and Alice’s. She hadn’t mentioned it to Joshua: it had been her secret. It could have been her mother on the other end, just ringing to hear the sound of her voice. There was definitely still hope. ‘As soon as I get to Newcastle, I’ll ring you. Then we’ll keep in touch by phone or email. I can send you texts. It might only be a few weeks.’ Rose nodded. Of course they would keep in touch. They were a family. ‘I still don’t understand why we can’t stay here.’ ‘Your gran wants you. My uncle wants me to go to him. They’re relatives. Without Dad and Kathy we have to stay with them.’ ‘But we’re related,’ she said. ‘No, we’re not, Rosie. Not really.’ Rose stared across the room, her eyes welling with tears. She and Joshua had been together for three years. He fixed her computer whenever it started to play up. He made her tea just the way she liked it: the tea bag left in


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 28

30/08/2013 14:16:43

for sixty seconds and a touch of milk, no sugar. He’d helped her with her homework when she went to big school. He’d sent her links to funny clips on YouTube. He’d bought her the key ring with a teddy bear on it that she had mocked at the time but secretly loved. ‘We’ll be all right, you’ll see,’ he whispered. If she held her eyes very still, if she didn’t blink, Joshua wouldn’t notice that she was crying. She focused on a piece of paper lying on the top of the chest of drawers. She got off the bed and went over to it. ‘What’s this?’ she said, her back to Joshua. She used her index finger to wipe tears from her eyes. ‘I found that in Dad’s old suitcase. It was in the zip compartment at the front.’ Rose unfolded the paper, laying it out flat on the wooden surface. It was a photocopy of a butterfly. She knew straight away which one. She’d done a project on them in primary school, learning names and colouring them in. ‘It’s a Blue Morpho,’ she said. ‘Why was it in your dad’s case?’ ‘I don’t know. He did have a tattoo.’ ‘So did Mum. But why’s it here?’ ‘Don’t know.’ Rose examined the picture. It was a photograph. The butterfly was on a white background, its two wings in perfect symmetry. Rose looked it over, struck by the deep


0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 29

30/08/2013 14:16:43

blue colour and the beauty of its markings. She frowned, though. Something wasn’t quite right. When she realised what it was she stiffened. There was a pin in its thorax. The butterfly was dead, mounted on a piece of board. Joshua had turned the sound of the television on again. The creature was dead, nailed there for people to look at. It gave her a heavy feeling in her chest. ‘Come and watch this programme. It’ll pass the time. That’s what we have to do over the next few days and weeks. Just get through the time until they come home. Then we can go back to the way things were.’ Rose sat on the bed with Joshua. He moved the pillows so that she could get comfortable. He put his arm round her and she leant her head on the side of his chest. She could hear his heart beating. No bodies had been found. In a few weeks they would all be together again. The next day she went to live with her grandmother and Joshua took the train to Newcastle.

0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 30

30/08/2013 14:16:43

Yourpa r e nt sa r ede a d–ors oe v e r yones a ys . Howmuc hwoul dyour i s kt of i ndoutt het r ut h?



www. bl oomsbury. com

Bloomsbury Publishing, London, New Delhi, New York and Sydney First published in Great Britain in August 2013 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP Text copyright Š Anne Cassidy 2013 The moral right of the author has been asserted All rights reserved Typeset by Hewer Text UK Ltd, Edinburgh

0000000000000 Black Days (832h).indd 31

30/08/2013 14:16:43