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Authors: Richard Parker

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BOOK: Scare Me
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As he made the two-hour trip to Pinellas County in silence, Pope considered avenues that were no longer open to him.
That morning another politician had been implicated in the ongoing revelations about the Lupus Rooms and the high-profile clientele it had serviced. After Wesley Strick and Jacob Franks's involvement had been corroborated using the hundreds of discs that had been found in Franks' apartment, the police had set about identifying the other luminaries that had been recorded in the act.
It was a slow media trickle of names and two months later it didn't show any sign of letting up. Minor Hollywood actors, musicians and politicians were falling over each other to voluntarily answer questions about their membership and the American public were waiting eagerly in front of the news for every new development.
Amberson, Monro, Dr Ren and Eva Lockwood were part of a story being rapidly overshadowed by a bigger exposé on sexual slavery. Poppy's abuse and revenge killings became the catalyst for yet another microscope to be positioned over the moral bankruptcy of the wealthy and famous.
The Frosts hadn't responded to any of the media that had camped out at the gates of their home and Pope certainly hadn't tried to speak to Mrs Frost since his last conversation with her in Chicago. He'd been anticipating contact from Ingram's lawyers and knew it still wasn't too late to get the call.
Pope had left Weaver in the UK, scurrying to get some interest in a kidnap that was the dead branch of a story that now had deeper roots in US soil.
Pope hadn't been back to Channel 55. The trip had reinforced his suspicion that he'd spent most of his life in the wrong place. Where to go from here? Certainly not back to the apartment with Lenora.
When they got to Calvary Catholic Cemetery, Pope got out and opened the door for Patrice. She'd said little, but at least she'd agreed to accompany him. Although Pope wanted to, he resisted offering her his arm. They strolled beside each other at a respectfully slow pace into the grounds.
Pope wished he shared his ex-wife's desire to acknowledge each of the significant dates their son wasn't present for, but he could never make his mind up whether it was apposite or plain morbid. It was a paradox he'd never come to terms with – feeling a duty to commemorate yet not wanting the pain of remembering.
Sean had gone under anaesthetic for some routine dental treatment when he was seven years old and hadn't woken up.
He often wondered about Sean's wishes, if he'd gained the age he was supposed to be now. Would he really want to see his parents punishing themselves at his graveside fourteen years later? He thought probably not, but Pope knew this was all about Patrice. When you lose your child there was no step-by-step program. It was something no parent should have to endure. It had given Pope an understanding of other people's losses all the years he'd been a crime reporter as he'd stood at the perimeter of their lives.
He watched Patrice lay the flowers and having a conversation with the gravestone she didn't want him to hear.
Carla opened her eyes. As her mind clutched at the frayed ends of a dream, she was sure it hadn't been about Poppy. She was still stalking them at night, but the occasions when they awoke believing themselves to be back in the summer house were becoming less frequent now.
She turned to Will and found him sitting up reading his Kindle. She touched his arm and he looked down at her and smiled tightly. The black Taser burns were still visible on his bare chest.
She'd just begun to acknowledge that much of what they'd experienced was beyond her control. This meant she was at least trying to deal with its aftermath and not punishing herself for failing to insure against it. Randomness. Recognising it didn't make whatever the future held for them any easier to handle. But she knew she had to relinquish a grip she didn't have, to stop feeling she could regulate every event. This time Carla had saved the people she loved.
Her parents… Jessie – fate wasn't obligated to favour her. It was good to acknowledge the miracles of the present. The Frost family had survived.
She clenched her hand under the blanket and felt the long scar prickle in her right palm. The jagged plastic of her Walker Brothers CD had cut a permanent reminder of how she'd taken a life, a life that had never stood a chance. That was the one thing Jessie and Poppy had in common. It was difficult to accept that someone who'd been a part of Will had been brought into the world before Libby came into their lives, had been living and breathing while they'd still been anticipating parenthood.
But it had been Poppy or her family, and Carla had no compunction about what she'd done. One thought still gnawed at her, though, something she'd never utter to Will. No matter how irrational she knew it was, Carla couldn't shake the notion that it was his longing for their second daughter that had brought Poppy's destructiveness to their doorstep.
Will moved suddenly away from her, as if the thought's existence had repelled him. He got out of bed and tugged on his dressing gown. “Coffee?”
Carla nodded and extended her arm to him. He leaned in and kissed her. She closed her eyes again, knowing exactly where he was going.
Will limped along the landing. He still had at least another six months before he knew if his tendon graft would allow him to walk properly again. But if he hadn't had the emergency surgery for his ruptured appendix that afternoon, he wouldn't have got as far as the foot cast. A part of him he'd been unaware of had been waiting for its chance to poison him.
He still hadn't stopped relating his past to Poppy's, wondering what he'd been doing when she was suffering at the hands of the men she'd punished. But he recognised that speculating about how events could have played out only sabotaged the present. Eva had kept him oblivious to his daughter's existence her entire life. He couldn't have prevented what she became and what Poppy had done to redress the injustice made him feel utterly removed from her.
He opened the door to Libby's room. It still smelt slightly of paint from the redecoration. Libby was on her back; propped up by pillows, snoring gently. She was exhausted. The last three months had been ferocious on her. Her nightdress hung away from her shoulder and he could see the edge of the bite mark there.
Her belly was so distended, and the baby wasn't even due until early January. His child was going to be a mother. They knew it would be a girl. Whether he was ready for that or not it was time to put aside who she'd been and be happy for who she was about to become. He was just grateful her innocence hadn't been excised as quickly as Poppy's. He hobbled to the bed and put the back of his hand against her cheek. It felt cool and she whipped her face away from him and frowned in her sleep. This was his reality. There'd been enough ghosts, real and imagined.
Libby was going to need all the love and support he and Carla could give her. Their lives were about to change again and he wouldn't miss a moment of that.
A new year and a new life. They all knew how precious that was.
He remembered what Poppy had said about Libby having to carry on the family alone. Had she really been spared to endure the loss of the people she loved, to be robbed of what Poppy had never had?
The Thai authorities had located the place where Libby and Luke had been held after an anonymous tip-off. They'd received a call from a child a day after Libby had been released. Figuring it to be a hoax they hadn't followed up until some hours later.
When they'd entered the chicken factory they'd found a man dead. He was the caretaker of the premises and he'd had his skull fractured by a blunt weapon. They'd discovered the cage Libby had been held in and, as well as the caretaker's, they'd located hairs and traces of DNA belonging to Libby and Luke and another unidentified person who couldn't be eliminated via comparisons to the employees of the factory. They'd been laid off for a month pending hygiene checks that were due to commence a week later. Although the presence of livestock had made the process of analysing the area doubly difficult, the forensics team confirmed that the loading bay and lower quarters of the factory had been wiped clean of fingerprints.
Will's recent paranoia returned. He tried to visualise the last photograph of Luke. His body had never been found. The image had been removed from the website. Who had constructed it?
At Luke's memorial, Will had been reminded of something that, until then, had seemed irrelevant. Luke had been adopted as Libby had. It was probably why they'd connected. He was twenty-one. What had Poppy said about Eva having a fertile womb for a junkie?
It was ludicrous. He was still torturing himself with the guilt of who Poppy was and what she'd done.
Libby had been taken from her hotel room in Penang, remembered waking up with a swab over her face and nothing more. She hadn't seen Luke all the time she'd been imprisoned and had spent most of her time in the cage with a hood over her face.
The photos of Easton Grey, knowing exactly where the holiday destination was, how could the kidnappers have known? But then, everyone had been under observation.
What about the first image of Luke tied to Libby's back? Could it have been set up while she'd been drugged?
Will tried to reconstruct the image of Luke's death, the one that no longer existed. And who had removed the photo of Will at university with Eva Lockwood that had been framed and planted in her home?
Had the summer house been chosen because Libby's child had been conceived there? Poppy had assembled her family photographs on its wall. Luke was in the very first one with Libby.
He placed his hand gently on Luke's child. If he had been involved in the kidnap he'd have to have been insane to play with the life of his daughter. Or perhaps in the process of inveigling himself into Libby's world the baby had been as much an unwanted consequence as Poppy.
Less than an hour later the telephone rang in his office. Will was waiting for it. He quickly shut the door and picked up.
Even though he was waiting for a call, he anticipated the sound of poultry every time he answered.
“Hello?” His blood froze as the receiver settled against his ear.
There were no screeching birds.
“Mr Frost?” It was Boland, the private investigator he'd hired.
“So?” Will didn't want any small talk.
There are many significant people responsible for the production of this book, but first and foremost I want to say my most heartfelt thank you to my wife, Anne-Marie, who experienced every knock back and excruciating near miss SCARE ME had before it found its rightful home at Exhibit A. I'd also like to say special thanks to: Emlyn Rees for pouncing on the project with such gusto and making it his first acquisition. Rebecca Smart for staying up into the small hours reading the manuscript. Marc Gascoigne for sharing the enthusiasm. In the US, Mike Underwood and John Tintera for his winning contribution to the title debate. Darren Turpin for his technical expertise. Zoe Sharp for a useful email about software. James Atkins in Chicago for photographing 18th and Racine and Washington Park. Simon Kernick for taking the time to read and blurb my first stand alone thriller. All at the offices of Angry Robot/Exhibit A. The CWA for shortlisting STOP ME for the John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award. The enormously generous communities of Twitter, Goodreads and Shelfari and, of course, you for choosing to read this book. 
Richard Parker has been a professional TV writer for twenty-two years and started by submitting material to the BBC. After contributing to a wide variety of TV shows, he became a head writer, script editor then producer. His first novel, Stop Me, was shortlisted for the prestigious UK Crime Writers Association John Creasey Dagger Award. He has now moved from London to Salisbury, but in no way hates London. He divides his time between reading, writing, cooking and visiting old English pubs. He is currently working on his third novel.
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Copyright © Richard Parker 2013
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Ebook ISBN: 978 1 90922 302 8
UK Paperback: ISBN: 978 1 90922 300 4
US Trade Paperback: ISBN: 978 1 90922 301 1
BOOK: Scare Me
5.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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