First published in Great Britain in 2010 by Hodder & Stoughton
An Hachette UK company
Copyright © Lin Anderson 2010
The right of Lin Anderson to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library
Epub ISBN 978 1 848 94203 5
Book ISBN 978 0 340 99289 0
Hodder & Stoughton
An Hachette UK Company
338 Euston Road
Thanks to Dr Jennifer Miller of GUARD, DCI Kenny Bailey (retired), Andy Rolph, R2S CRIME Forensic Services Manager, Scottis people’s tenor John Innes and Sharon Mitchell, Scottish artist (www.sharonmitchellartist.co.uk
To Detective Inspector Bill Mitchell
It was fear of the clown that drove Kira inside.
He appeared suddenly beside a group of kids at the candyfloss van, bringing her to an abrupt halt. Then it began. The rapid heartbeat, the burst of perspiration, the shortness of breath. The baby lurched inside her, as though sharing her panic.
The clown looked up, catching her eye. There was nothing funny about the mask it was wearing. Its deformity terrified her. She imagined her unborn child emerging from the womb, clown face grinning up at her, hands and feet unnaturally large.
Kira dragged her gaze away and forced her frozen limbs to walk to the nearest booth. The young male attendant pushed a ticket and her change under the glass and she grabbed it, her hand trembling, imagining the clown’s gaze fastened on her back.
She pulled aside the thick black entrance curtain and let it fall behind her. Now that the clown was out of sight, her fear began to subside. Kira closed her eyes and took slow, deep breaths, mimicking the pre-natal classes her mother had persuaded her to attend. Gradually her heartbeat slowed and she began to feel foolish. Thank God she hadn’t been with David – or even worse, Sandie – when it happened. She would never have lived it down.
Calmer now, she took a look around her. She was in a narrow corridor lit by an orange lamp. God, she hoped this wouldn’t turn out to be some fright trip. The clown had been scary enough. The baby was due in ten days and she didn’t fancy an early delivery, not that she was looking forward to any delivery if she was honest.
She glanced back at the curtain. Should she leave? The clown might have moved on. Then she decided no fairground attraction could be as terrifying as seeing that face again.
The corridor terminated in another black curtain. Kira pulled it aside and stepped through, and was immediately confronted by herself – swollen beyond all recognition.
The image was every pregnant woman’s worst nightmare. Short, squat, a ball on thick legs. Only her face remained normal in size, its gaze startled. Her initial shock gave way to amusement and she smiled at this version of herself. Her reflection smiled back, the grin flat and wide like the Cheshire Cat’s. She giggled and stepped sideways to see what the next mirror would offer.
This time she was as thin as a rake, the bump a funny nodule in the middle, yet her face was fatter than ever. A big round Humpty Dumpty face.
Laughter bubbled up inside her. No longer a seventeen-year-old expectant mother ‘whose life had been ruined’, Kira was, for a moment, a child again. The baby jerked into life, stretching her skin with its kicking. She turned sideways to watch the effects of its movement in the mirror.
It was then she became aware that there was someone else in the tent. She waited, expecting voices or laughter, hearing only footsteps on the wooden flooring. Turning towards the sound, she was horrified to see the hideous white face with its obscenely large red mouth and tiny black eyes. Not just one clown this time, but multiple versions reflected in the maze of mirrors.
Then the whispering began, an eerie cacophony that rose and fell like a wave about her. Shrieks from the nearby rides drowned her own scream as she took off, darting down paths between the mirrors, desperate to find the exit, imagining the clown following, getting ever closer.
A sudden pain tore at her belly and she bent double, sending a rush of hot water streaming down her inner thighs to pool between her feet. She smelt the cloying scent of sweat and plastic and knew he was there, right behind her.
, she whispered as she sunk to her knees.
Hands gripped her head and tipped it up. The rubbery gargoyle face was inches from her own now. Kira moaned as another spasm caught her in its grip, and the hands suddenly released her. She slumped to the floor and rolled onto her side, drawing up her knees. As the contraction built to its peak, she closed her eyes and concentrated on the pain, then something soft and ice-cold covered her nose and mouth, smothering her cry.
She fought against breathing in the acrid fumes, but failed. As the sounds of the funfair began to fade, the image before her began to blur. Now the clown became a doctor who had come to help her. As the pain subsided, Kira gave a little whimper of relief.
David checked his hair in the ticket booth glass, smoothing it into shape.
‘This isn’t a hairdresser’s, mate.’
He grinned and passed the money for two tickets under the glass, then gestured to Owen to follow and made his way nonchalantly across the floor towards a red dodgem car.
‘I’m driving,’ he said as they got in.
Sandie was already climbing into a blue model nearby. She threw him a look, daring him. He had every intention of ramming her – again and again. He was looking forward to hearing her scream.
She had been playing up to him all night when Kira wasn’t looking, thinking she would soon be out of the picture. She had no idea what he and Kira had together. How they understood one another perfectly. Yin and Yang. Joined at the hip, although the bump got in the way at the moment.
The buzzer sounded and he took off, wrenching the wheel immediately to the left, slamming the blue dodgem side-on. Sandie jerked forward, then back, screeching in fright.
She even swore in a posh voice. Weird. He swung full circle and rammed her again. The blue car was going nowhere.
When the hooter sounded Sandie had barely moved from her starting point. David jumped out, elated, and strode towards the side. ‘Waltzers next,’ he called to Owen. He scanned the crowds waiting to take their place on the cars. No sign of Kira. How long did it take to buy candyfloss?
Maybe she’d headed for the toilets set up in a row outside the circle of motor homes. These days she needed the toilet all the time. He shrugged and set off towards the Waltzers.
A young guy with a shaved head took their money, eyeing up Sandie, who’d made a point of sitting between himself and Owen. She gave him a flirty look, and as soon as the ride started up he made a beeline for their carriage and began to twirl them mercilessly.
Now Sandie’s screams were much too close for comfort. David wanted to take her striped scarf and shove it down her throat. As they swept round, he thought he spotted Kira in the crowd, but the next time round she had disappeared.
The bald guy’s antics with their car were threatening to bring up the three bottles of Becks he’d drunk. He’d seen that happen once before, a guy projectile-vomiting on a Waltzer. Mad panic had ensued as the occupants of neighbouring cars ducked and dived and the crowds lining the barrier jumped out of the way.
What an arse the sick guy had looked as he climbed off, jacket streaked with vomit, half the surrounding throng out to get him. He didn’t want that to happen to him.
David focused on keeping the beer where it belonged, although Sandie didn’t help matters, clinging to his arm, her face buried in his shoulder. She stunk of strong perfume or hairspray. Not like Kira, whose skin had recently developed a milky smell like white chocolate.
They were slowing down, and Sandie’s screams had quietened to a relieved whimper. Making a point of ignoring David, Baldy slipped her a piece of paper, doubtless with his number on it, then gave them a final twirl. The bar was released and David stood up, not making any attempt to assist Sandie, even though she pouted at him.
The truth was, he was fed up with her and wanted only to locate Kira. He turned on his heel and walked away without explanation. Sandie was already putting Baldy’s number in her phone.
There was a queue at the candyfloss van but Kira wasn’t part of it. He thought about asking the woman serving if she’d seen her, but decided against it and headed instead for the toilets. There was a queue there too. He stood watching until he’d seen each cubicle door open and someone emerge. None of them was Kira.
Finally he pulled out his phone and called her, wondering if she would be able to hear it above the noise of the fairground.
Hi, this is Kira. Leave a message
‘Where are you? Call me back.’
He hung around the toilets for a while, getting some funny looks. Half an hour later he decided she must have gone home. But why do that without telling him? He had a sudden thought that she might have seen Sandie drape herself round him on the Waltzers and taken umbrage. But Kira knew what Sandie was like and she also knew he didn’t fancy her. Still, pregnancy had made her a bit weird and emotional.