Read What You Wish For Online

Authors: Mark Edwards

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #Crime

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BOOK: What You Wish For
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Then, one late autumn afternoon, everything changed.

It was a Friday. I came home from work early. I was worried about Marie. She had gone down with a virus earlier that week and had taken to her sick bed. I had tried to persuade her to go to the doctor, but she had insisted that she was all right. ‘I just need to rest,’ she said.

I pushed open the front door and trotted up the stairs. She wasn’t in bed. Perhaps she was asleep in the living room. I ran back down the stairs.

She was sitting on the sofa with her phone clutched tightly in her hand. It emitted a high-pitched beeping. Her eyes were pink and her face was streaked with tears. Her knuckles were white where she was gripping the phone so tightly.

‘Marie? What is it? What’s happened?’

‘It’s Andrew,’ she said. ‘He’s dead.’



If it hadn’t been for Marie’s virus she would have been with Andrew when he was killed. She would probably be dead too.

Andrew had been on one of his trips to the far side of Kent to look at more crop circles and talk to a couple of farmers. The local press were barely interested. These days, crop circles were old news; the methods of the people who made them, using ropes and planks, had been revealed years ago. Or so I thought. Andrew and Marie still believed that some crop circles were created by aliens; that they were messages from the Chorus.

Andrew was something of a self-styled expert on crop circles. He had been all over the country to study them and had even written a couple of articles, and numerous pamphlets. He had phoned Marie that afternoon and told her that he was convinced these were the real thing. He knew a manmade crop circle when he saw one. He took some photographs and headed home in his car.

In his excitement, I guess he drove too fast. Maybe he wasn’t concentrating. Apparently, he was driving through some narrow country lanes, far too fast, and as he turned the corner he had swerved to avoid something – probably an animal – in the road. He went through a barbed wire fence and struck a tree. He was killed instantly.

Along with Marie’s grief came a comprehension that she was lucky to be alive and she spent the few days after Andrew’s death in a kind of stunned silence, contemplating her mortality, while I was filled with relief that I hadn’t lost her.

‘If I die,’ Marie said. ‘This is what I want you to do for me.’

‘Please don’t talk like that.’

‘I’m serious, Richard. This is what I want. Which is how I know it’s what Andrew would want.’

We had climbed back to the top of the East Hill, where I had first met Marie, and walked along to an area known as the Firehills. It was a beautiful spot, verdant yet rugged, with glorious views across the English Channel. On this late September evening, it was windy and chilly, and it would soon be dark.

There were five of us. Me, Marie, Fraser – who looked as queasy as the first night I’d met him – plus two young women I hadn’t met before, but who were members of Marie and Andrew’s little group. Melissa was a curvy brunette with trendy glasses and Katie was tall, slim and twitchy. Neither of them spoke much. They seemed as grief-stricken as Marie, and the whole group was solemn and quiet as we made our way towards the cliff edge.

Marie held a little urn in her hand. It contained Andrew’s ashes.

‘Perfect weather,’ Marie said, standing by the cliff, the wind whipping her hair. I was worried she might blow over, go flying into the sea, but she stood firm and strong.

‘Didn’t Andrew have any family?’ I had asked when Marie told me of this plan.

‘No. His parents died years ago and he was an only child. He’s going to be cremated and then we’re going to hold a ceremony on the hill, to scatter his ashes to the winds, so they are carried up to the sky.’

I wasn’t sure if this was quite feasible, but didn’t say anything.

‘Will you come?’ she asked. ‘Please?’

‘Of course.’

So here we were. Marie unscrewed the urn and tipped ashes onto her palm. She murmured a few words which I couldn’t hear well with the wind in my ears, but she said something about travelling well, and then she cast the remains of Andrew towards the cliff edge.

The others took turns to do the same. Everybody was crying, except me. I wasn’t sure that Andrew would have wanted me to scatter any of his ashes, but Marie insisted. ‘He respected you,’ she said.

Fraser, who was the last in line, seemed particularly upset, which surprised me. I hadn’t realised he’d known Andrew that well. I guessed they had formed a strong bond over Fraser’s UFO experience. His hand trembled as Marie tipped ashes into his palm. I watched as he turned towards the sea, many metres below, and swung his arm, the wind catching the ashes and carrying them, swirling and eddying, towards the sunset.

‘So how did it go?’

Simon wiped his brow with the grimy cuff of his white shirt. We were sitting on a bench in Alexandra Park to cover a story about dog shit. Simon and I were supposed to be talking to dog owners and finding out how many of them used the poop scoop bins. This was part of the editor’s campaign against dog mess.

Simon bit into his Magnum. ‘So?’

The day after the ceremony on the hill, a woman called Theresa Smith had phoned and told me she loved the portfolio I’d sent her. The
, of which she was the picture editor, was looking to commission a number of unknown photographers to put together a series of articles on modern Britain. She wanted to meet me. By the end of the conversation I was giddy with excitement. This could be my big break.

It was now a few days after my meeting with Theresa at the
. ‘It went pretty well. She loved my pictures. But I haven’t heard anything yet.’

He grunted. ‘So you’ll be buggering off and leaving us then.’

‘It’s only a commission. Even if I get it I won’t be leaving this job.’

‘Yeah, but it will open doors, won’t it?
you’ll be buggering off.’

I couldn’t help but smile. ‘Well, that’s the idea.’

After we’d interviewed and snapped an assortment of criminal dog owners, we walked back into town.

‘How’s that bird of yours?’ Simon asked.

‘Upset.’ I told him about the ceremony.

He shook his head. ‘Poor her. But I didn’t like that bloke at all. There was something creepy about him. Sort of slimy.’

‘I know what you mean. But he was Marie’s business partner, so—’ I turned my palms upwards.

‘Yeah.’ He lit a cigarette. ‘Is she still into all this UFO crap?’

I leapt to Marie’s defence. ‘It’s not crap. I mean, she believes it, and how do we know for sure that it’s her who’s wrong? Maybe we’re wrong.’

Simon laughed. ‘Fuck, it must be love.’

‘Speaking of which, how are things with Susan?’ We hadn’t mentioned his behaviour at the nightclub since it had happened, but he had been acting shifty recently, checking his phone all the time, taking calls and wandering out of earshot. I was pretty sure he was having an affair.

‘No comment,’ he said.

When I got home, Marie was hunched over the PC, tapping away at the keys. As soon as I entered the room, she swung round, an alarmed expression on her face. She quickly turned back and closed the browser window she had been looking at.

‘What are you doing?’ I asked.

‘Sorry, it’s private.’


She stood up and put her arms around me. ‘You wouldn’t be interested anyway.’

‘Let me guess: visitors.’

‘You got it in one. I’m sorry, Richard, but now Andrew’s gone, I have to work twice as hard to keep the network and the consultancy going.’

‘I know.’

‘You hate it, don’t you?’ she said, standing up, her hands on her hips.

‘No, I understand . . .’

‘You don’t, though, do you?’

I stared at her. ‘Marie, why are you being like this? What did I do?’

She sank back into the computer chair and put her hands over her face. I realised she was crying silently. I tried to put my arm around her but she shrugged me off.

‘Please. I need some space,’ she said.

‘Is this about Andrew?’ I said. ‘I know you miss him.’

She wiped her eyes. The tears had stopped as quickly as they’d started. ‘I’m OK,’ she said. ‘I’ll be OK. Just . . . let’s just leave it.’

I stroked her shoulder. ‘All right. If that’s what you want. But if need to talk—’

‘I know.’

I turned to leave the room to make a drink and Marie said, ‘Richard, there was a message for you. Theresa Smith. She wants you to call her.’

I listened to the voicemail.

‘I don’t believe it,’ I said. ‘I got the commission.’

On the sixteenth of October I had a second appointment with Theresa Smith. I had already sent her the photos and now she wanted to meet ‘for a chat’. I had spent the last couple of weeks working hard, taking and editing photos every spare minute I had.

‘What time will you be home?’ Marie asked, kissing me goodbye. Over the past few days she had seemed a little brighter, but busy with college work along with her consultancy. She spent half her life on the computer.

‘I don’t know. Five or six, I expect.’

I sat on the train and tried my hardest not to feel nervous. I needn’t have worried. The meeting went better than I could have hoped. Theresa wanted me to do more regular work, and we discussed a few initial assignments.

I walked back to Charing Cross with a spring in my step. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell Marie. I tried to call her but there was no answer.

I tried to call her several more times from the train home. It wasn’t unusual for her to let her phone die, forgetting to charge it, especially if she was coding or chatting on one of the internet forums she frequented. I wasn’t too worried. With the money from the commission I decided I would take Marie away; it might help her get over Andrew’s death. I browsed holiday sites on my phone.

I took a taxi home from the train station and got the driver to drop me at the little supermarket up the road from my house. I bought a bottle of champagne and walked home, feeling

‘Marie?’ I called. No response, just silence. I looked at my watch. Just after six.

I checked every room. I went back outside, that feeling that something was very wrong nibbling at my guts.

Back indoors, I tried to distract myself, flicking through a magazine, browsing holiday sites again on my phone. I was planning on taking Marie away somewhere hot and exotic, was going to surprise her. She’d been through a lot recently. She deserved a break.

The ominous feeling that something was wrong intensified, while at the same time I tried to stay rational. There was no sign in the house that anything sinister had happened. No signs of a struggle, no blood. Nothing out of place. I went upstairs and ran a bath, thinking the hot water might relax me. It was eight o’clock now and her phone was still off.

By ten I had reassured myself that she must have met one of her college friends and gone round to see them, maybe gone out to the pub, was enjoying herself, getting drunk. She deserved to let her hair down. I didn’t have any of her friends’ numbers, would have felt foolish contacting them anyway. I could picture them laughing about Marie’s over-protective boyfriend, teasing her about having a curfew, asking if she’d turn into a pumpkin if she wasn’t home on time. I needed to chill out.

I checked my phone numerous times to make sure it was working. I looked around again for a note. I poured myself a beer and drank it too quickly, then drank another. Marie’s cigarettes were lying on the worktop. Surely she wouldn’t have gone to the pub without them? She must have bought a fresh packet.

I had a dreadful thought: what if she had left me? I ran upstairs and looked in the wardrobe. All her clothes seemed to be there. In fact, all that was missing was her jacket and her bag. I relaxed a little. She must be at the pub. I could go looking for her but, again, I didn’t want her to think I was being possessive, the kind of person who goes out to drag his girlfriend home if she’s out late.

BOOK: What You Wish For
4.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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