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Authors: Charlotte Link

Tags: #Fiction, #Crime, #Mystery & Detective, #General

The Watcher (55 page)

BOOK: The Watcher
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She had grabbed the key intending to force Tara to come back. Tara could never be able to leave the Peak District on foot. The car would be no use to her without the key and it was unlikely that anyone would drive past. Certainly not now that night was falling. The cold, which right now was Gillian’s worst enemy, was an even more deadly enemy for Tara out there. She needed the key. So she would have to come back. And then . . .

Yes, what then? Would Gillian manage to overpower her, a woman armed with a pistol and a knife, who would stop at nothing and had nothing to lose?

By now a new thought had taken hold of Gillian:
I have to get out of here, before she comes back!

In the dull light of the torch’s beam, she searched everywhere. Nothing, nothing at all that could help her. What had they used to cook with? To eat with? She had looked in vain for cutlery or a kitchen knife that she could use to arm herself. There was a shelf above the stove on which a few plastic containers stood, but they were empty. At some point someone, perhaps Mrs Caine, had taken away all the household items because she knew that the hut was no longer going to be used. And she had been thorough. She had not overlooked a thing.

Gillian shuddered at the thought of Mrs Caine-Roslin. Everything Tara had told her in the couple of hours before leaving had made Gillian shudder. But she could not afford to think about it now. She could do that later. For the moment she had to make sure she did not lose strength. She had to focus on getting out. Nothing else.

Somehow she had to break the lock on the door or get out through the shuttered windows. Those were her only options. Something that she could use as a crowbar would have been more than welcome now, but there was literally nothing of the kind. A few pieces of furniture. No tools, cutlery, not even a bottle that could be smashed at the neck and made into a sharp object. The water bottles they had brought were plastic.

She looked at the key ring in her hand. It had two keys: the car key and the key to Tara’s flat. The key to the flat was comparatively thin, with a serrated edge. It was the only object she had that was at all sharp. It might be her only chance, tiny as it was. If she had not grabbed the keys, she would have had to surrender to the fate of freezing or starving to death in here.

She pulled a set of shelves over to the door and placed the torch on it so that its beam shone on the lock. Then she knelt down in front of the door and examined the lock. Mr Caine had repaired bikes and built a log cabin on his own. He was good with his hands. Gillian was worried that he might not have installed a simple lock. No doubt he had wanted to make sure his hut was perfectly secure. She poked around tentatively with her key. Nothing happened. Nor did she have the feeling that she would be able to make anything happen.

All right. There were still the two windows. Covered by heavy wooden shutters. Maybe she would have more luck with them.

She lugged the shelves and the torch over to one of the windows and examined its construction.

Square panes of glass. They were easy to open; she just had to unlatch them. The problem was the shutters on the other side. They met in the middle of the window, where they were bolted together. The bolt was secured with a solid-looking padlock. She would have no more luck with that than with the lock on the door. Just a cursory glance told her that.

Tears welled up in her eyes and she realised how much she wanted to just sit in a corner and have a good cry, but she forced herself to brush aside the temptation. Crying was not going to help her. It would just rob her of energy.

Focus
, she told herself.
Find a way. Tara is going to be back at some point, because she can’t get away by car, and you need to be out and well away by then
.

Tara had killed her own mother. Tara had killed Carla Roberts and Anne Westley. She had killed Tom, although she had actually intended to kill Gillian. She had crept into Gillian’s house a second time and waited for her. It was only thanks to Luke Palm’s unexpected return that her attempt had failed. And until now, she seemed to think all her actions were logical and comprehensible. She thought they had had to happen. She knew that the law of the land would not see it like that, but on the level of a higher morality, beyond any human court, she thought she was innocent. It was her complete and ineradicable belief.

He raped me for five years. Ted Roslin, my stepfather. Sometimes he would come to my bed every night for a week. His hunger only increased the more he satisfied it. He raped the little daughter of the woman he had married – and had only married because of that same daughter. I was a pretty child. Blonde, leggy. Big, bright eyes. He had liked the look of me the first time he saw me. In fact, as he later told me, he had become obsessed with me. That was when he had started courting my mother. And that had been easy. She was so determined to find a new spouse quickly that she was more than willing to ignore anything odd, any warning signs. For example, the fact that Ted never got a hard-on with her. OK, no need to conclude from that any perverted preference for children. But you might try to find out why, mightn’t you? But she only did that once they were married and he couldn’t get away from her as easily. Then, yes, then she was peeved that he obviously found her about as erotic as a dead fish. Well, at some point she realised why. After all, he was not really trying to hide his ‘special relationship’ with me. Once Mum knew what was happening, she was angry and jealous; she argued a lot with him. You see? She was not so much worried about what he did to me as about what he
didn’t
do to her. But in the end she always capitulated. Because there was one emotion greater than her jealousy of me and her injured pride as a woman, and that was the fear that he could leave her. She would not risk really annoying him. She resigned herself to the situation so that he would stay
.

Gillian pulled herself together. She realised that she had been staring at the shutters for minutes without seeing them. She had been listening to Tara’s voice, which even now, hours later, droned on and on in her head. In spite of the delicate situation, she had listened to Tara in horror as Tara had talked about her youth – about the time after her father’s death – in a largely monotonous tone, at times sounding almost cheerful, at times ironic.

About her time in hell.

Gillian brushed aside the horror that arose in her when she remembered what she had heard. She had no time to start to deal with it now. Later, when she was somewhere safe.

The shutters.

They were made of several boards and attached to the outside wall on each side of the window. The iron hinges were screwed to the wood. By the light of her torch, Gillian could see that over time the screws had rusted. She tried to turn one of them by putting the tip of the key to Tara’s flat into the head, but it didn’t work. The key kept slipping out and the screw was so rusty that no doubt even a screwdriver would not have been any use. The boards themselves looked too thick and securely joined together for her to consider breaking them.

She looked everywhere on the shutters for a weak point. The wood had obviously never been painted and over the years it had turned grey. One of the hinges caught Gillian’s eye. Around it the wood had turned a different colour: not grey, but more like green, nearly black. She felt it with her fingers. It seemed softer here than elsewhere. She pressed Tara’s key against it. She really could get it into the wood without any real difficulty. She could sense her breathing speeding up in her excitement. Around the other hinge she could see the same blackish coloration, and wherever in these places she prodded with the key, she found the wood to be rotten. The rusty screws seemed to have attacked and affected it over the course of the years.

She hammered on the shutters with both fists. The rotten bits had to give!

But they did not. Gillian’s arms sank. She was breathing heavily. She did not have the strength for it.

I need a hammer.

An impossible wish. There was not even cutlery in the hut, let alone tools. She had looked hard enough.

So . . . no hammer. What else could she use? She needed something like a battering ram, something to slam into the old wood until, hopefully, it gave. She flashed the torch beam around the room. The table. Or to be more precise, the table legs. She could use one of them.

She turned off the torch, tipped the table on its side and then upside down. Then she looked at its wooden legs. They were screwed to the tabletop and glued to boards along the edge.

If she could prise them free of the glue with the key, she would be on her way. The single screw might not offer too much resistance. If she jerked the leg back and forth, the screw might break.

Suddenly a wave of fear and despondency swamped her, taking away her breath. The chance was so slight, the danger so great.

She pulled herself together and began, millimetre by millimetre, to scrape the glue out of the cracks in the wood.

9

John was driving. Samson sat next to him holding Angus Sherman’s book on his lap. There were delays here and there, traffic lights that seemed to stay red for ever, and one long hold-up because of a lorry manoeuvring in the road, but on the whole they made good progress. At the start, John swore loudly at every delay, because he had the feeling that they were in a race against time. From his years in the police force he knew only too well how a few minutes could be the difference between life and death. But in the end he managed to calm himself down. Slamming his fist on the steering wheel was not going to help, nor was cursing the driver ahead of him, who was crawling along at a snail’s pace looking for a parking space. It only pumped him full of adrenalin and might lead him to make a mistake.

Luckily Samson did not talk. He concentrated on the map, following its lines with his index finger and only speaking when they needed to change direction.

‘We have to go right here, I think.’

‘The second exit off the roundabout, I think.’

John had retorted a couple of times: ‘You
think?
Or you know?’ Samson’s hesitancy, his wretched lack of confidence, was getting on John’s nerves. Yet when a glance to the side revealed that Samson was fighting back tears, John checked his behaviour. Turning his companion into a bundle of nerves would not help at all, and what was more, it was not fair. Samson had done a good job. He had found Angus Sherman and in so doing had given them their first promising lead. He was how he was. The constant moderation of what he said with a
perhaps, I think
or
possibly
was part of his character.

They passed the last outskirts of Manchester. Terrace after terrace of houses. A business park. A football pitch. A McDonald’s. Then they left the lights of the city behind them. They could only see the beams of other cars’ headlights.

‘We’re on the M60,’ said Samson. That was the orbital motorway around Manchester. ‘We come off at Stockport and take the A6 to the Peak District.’ He managed to suppress the
I think
that he had been about to add. ‘Then we go . . . for about five miles . . .’

‘All right,’ said John. ‘It’s going to be more difficult than it looks on the map, Samson. We have to find the right road into the Peak District – or rather, the road Sherman thinks is right. He wasn’t very sure about exactly where the hut is, either.’

‘I know,’ said Samson, uneasily. ‘Hopefully we’re not too late.’

They left the motorway and drove down the almost empty A6, braking suddenly when they saw a sign for a car park for walkers setting off into the Peak District, as well as a sign for a road leading up on to the moors. John had no idea if they were right to stop, but the A road would have taken them too far south. Peak District. It sounded so harmless. You imagined a certain area with limits. But in truth they had miles and miles of meadows, mountains and moors ahead of them. He knew that if they were unlucky, they could spend days driving around without getting anywhere near the hut.

They needed to find a way into the Peak District – and this parking place seemed as likely a spot as any other.

Of course they were the only people there. John stopped, turned on the light inside the car and took the book.

‘Probably this is the right road,’ he said. ‘I mean, it’s the road on the map. But whether it’s really the right road, who knows.’

The road was narrow, but it had been partially cleared. It led from the car park through a short stretch of wood into treeless fields. Snow as far as the eye could see, which provided some help with making things out in the dark. The snow was a blessing and their only hope. John realised that there was no way they would discover the hut right beside a road. If Gillian and Tara had been able to drive all the way to the hut, they would have had to give up their search. But because of the snow, Tara would have had to leave the car beside a cleared road, and that meant that the haystack in which they were searching for a needle was smaller than it might otherwise have been.

A glimmer of hope. A Jaguar parked somewhere.

John kept this firmly in mind as they pressed on into the dark, cold wilderness.

We’re coming, Gillian! Please, my love, hang on!

Only when Samson glanced over at him quickly did he realise that he had not just thought those words.

He had said them out loud.

10

She had locked the car from inside and then lain down on the back seat, draping the thick woollen blanket from the boot over her. In spite of the warm trousers and fur-lined anorak that she was wearing, and now the blanket too, she was soon freezing. She pulled her legs up so far that she almost had her knees in her mouth. She held them tight in her arms. Nevertheless, she could not control the shivering that had taken over her whole body. She had the impression that the car was wobbling and shaking. In spite of her fear, she almost grinned at one point, imagining the car bouncing around in the snowy night.

But her amusement only lasted a moment. Her situation was too scary.

BOOK: The Watcher
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ads

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