Chapter 1 The Noise outside.
By J A Evans
Martha gave a soft sigh of contentment, as she settled down under the thick, cosy duvet and then another sigh of irritation when she saw the curtains flapping wildly in the breeze. Swinging her legs back out of the bed, she slipped on her beige fluffy slippers and shuffled along the wooden floor. The light breeze blew at her small grey curls as she began to pull the window shut.
Suddenly she heard the sound of voices, echoing from the darkness outside.
Opening the window wider and straining her ears, she screwed up her face in an effort to make sense of the muffled words in the distance.
Two voices, one was definitely female shouting hysterically, "NO¦ STOP IT, Nooo¦.
Intermingling with the high pitch voice, she was sure she could hear deep, menacing male tones, but she could make no sense of his words.
Walking quickly into the bathroom, with her heart now beating hard inside her chest, she struggled to pull on her pink dressing gown, as she hobbled down the stairs.
Grabbing the torch, which sat on the shelf next to the door, she listened momentarily, unlocked the door and stared out into the darkness. The weak beam of light lit up the trees in front of the house. Shining the beam on the trunks of each one, she saw nothing move.
What would she do if she did catch someone in the beam; she had no idea¦ only the thought of someone in trouble spurred her on. The fact she was putting her own life in danger by standing at the front door, with the torch in her hand, crossed her mind but she ignored the warning.
Listening to the rustling of the leaves in the darkness, she was quite pleased not to hear anything else, but still she felt uneasy. Trotting back into the house, the old woman ran through the thick carpeted passageway, into the living room, past the large floral sofa and stopped at the patio door. Sliding it open she ran out to the back gate, which led to the alleyway behind the garage. Switching on the light above the gate, she then slid the bolt across, opened the gate slowly and shone the light down the alley, first down towards the road and then up the other way towards the park, but to her great relief she saw nothing.
Standing in the cold night air, a shiver ran down her spine, as she heard another piercing scream, which came from the front of the house.
The old woman's heart raced, as beads of sweat formed on her forehead.
Running back inside to the telephone, she fumbled with the buttons to dial 999.
"Which service please, said the impassionate voice at the other end of the line.
"The police please, I think somebody is being attacked outside my house, send them quick.
"One moment please, while I connect you. said the patient voice at the other end of the line.
The old woman's eyes darted back and forth, as she shuffled on the spot, willing the people on the other end of the telephone to pick it up.
"Ardale Police station, how can I help you?
"There's a girl screaming outside my house¦ I think someone's attacking her. My names Mrs Martha Child and I live at sixty five, Allcourt Road that's in Bilriffy village come quick. she said nervously.
After several irritating minutes, spelling out her name and address to the young man. She slammed the telephone down and went back to the front door and shone the light out of the small side window and onto the path in front of the house.
She stood there helpless, what else could she do? she thought, she was a woman on her own, even if she did see something happening, what could she do?
A small fist suddenly banged frantically on the window and then on the door making Martha jump. Frightened eyes stared at her through the window pane.
"Help me, please¦ help me, please let me in, pleaded the small woman, as she looked behind her nervously, "he's coming, please let me in, he's¦.
Martha opened the door quickly, pulled the woman in by the arm, slamming the door shut and locking it behind them just in time.
Two piercing blue eyes peered at them through the glass. A huge fist banged on the large oak door making both woman jump. The girl, for she could have been no more than sixteen, hid behind the old woman sobbing uncontrollably.
The fists kept pounding on the oak door, but then unexpectedly they stopped.
The letterbox opened and a deep voice shouted down the hallway
"Vanessa, get out here now¦ Vanessa¦ do you hear me, come out now or I'll kick this door down. he demanded.
"No, I wont, shouted the girl defiantly holding back the tears, "you'll hit me again if I do.
The old woman looked at the child's face; blood was dripping down from a gash just above her right eye.
"Dear, dear me, did he do that? said the old woman, as she held a handkerchief onto the cut.
The girl nodded solemnly and putting her hands over her face, she started to sob again.
"Honest Vanessa, came a much softer voice from the letter box, " I didn't mean it, honest I didn't, but you get me so riled up with your nagging, you know you shouldn't, I've told you so many times, but you don't listen, come on Vanessa, you know I love you.
"Please don't let him get me. pleaded the girl earnestly, holding tightly onto the old woman's arm and shaking like a caught sparrow.
Martha held the distraught girl around the waist and helped her into the living room,
"There now don't you worry, I've called the police they should be here any minute. she said confidently, as she sat the sobbing girl down onto the blue floral sofa.
"Don't you fret dear, he won't get through that door, she said, but then she saw the patio door standing wide open.
Dashing to the door, she slid the door shut and tried to lock it, but unexpectedly a large hand was pulling it back open.
"No, get out. screeched the old woman, scratching at the large hairy fist. Slamming the door hard on the hand, a yell of pain echoed through the midnight air. Drawing the door slightly open, the hand quickly withdrew and as the door shut she locked it. Clutching the key to her chest, she watched the man's angry contorted face, as he screamed, "You wait you old cow, I'll get you for this¦ Vanessa, you'll regret this. Get out here now! he shouted angrily as he waved his fist threateningly at her.
Blue lights flashed outside.
"Vanessa come on the cops are here, come now, quickly we've got to get out of here, if they catch us they'll find it, you can't let them. We'll both be for it, come on, quick¦ come now.
Vanessa looked up at the young mans pleading face, but after a moment she turned her head away without a word.
The man knew what she meant and after giving the two women a contemptuous look; he dashed off into the darkness.
The pair sat on the sofa holding on tightly to one another and jumped nervously when the front doorbell rang.
"You sit there dear, it's probably the police. said the old woman, patting the girl's arm reassuringly.
Looking out through the glass, the policewoman outside smiled back at the old woman.
"It's alright¦ Mrs Child, is it?¦. Can I come in?
"Oh, thank goodness, said the old woman unlocking the door and gesturing to her to come inside.
"We were so scared. He was banging on the door and telling her to come back out, poor dear, she'll have to go to hospital, she's got a nasty cut above her eye. she said breathlessly, as she led the police woman into the living room, but to her surprise the young girl had gone.
The back patio door was wide open with the curtains fluttering in the wind.
The police officer, holding onto her hat, ran out of the door, through the garden and disappeared out the back gate.
"I can't understand it, said Martha after she had finished giving her statement to the young policewoman, "why would she run off like that, he'd beaten her and she was bleeding.
"Most probably she didn't want the police to be involved, maybe it was just a lover's tiff.
"Lovers don't hit each other, said the old woman indignantly, "my Bill never laid a hand on me, in fifty two years of marriage, God bless him. she said as she held up a faded picture of a young man sitting on a beach.
"Well nowadays, said the policewoman raising her eyebrows and shaking her head.
"We have to go Helen. interrupted a tall policeman, who had stuck his head in through the front door.
"All right Peter, I'll be there in a moment. shouted back the policewoman.
"Thank you so much. said the old woman, as she escorted the officer out of the front door. "I'm really sorry if I wasted your time.
"No that's all right, that's what were here for, better safe than sorry. said the officer smiling sweetly.
After locking the door, the old woman climbed back up the stairs wearily. Her legs felt like lead and walking over to the bedroom window, she held onto the window latch and after listening for a moment, she shut the window and went back to bed.
The following morning, after a fretful sleep, Martha sat at her kitchen table and unfolded the newspaper. Holding her hand over the picture on the front page, a feeling of remorse and guilt rose up into her chest and she wished that she could turn back time, but that was impossible.
"Why didn't you stay put, you silly girl, why did you have to run off? she said sadly, as she read the large headline 'Murder at Bilriffy Village.' and stared into the familiar bright eyes of the smiling teenage girl.
Later that morning, after washing up the breakfast dishes, Martha started her usual routine. Beginning down stairs, she pulled out the vacuum cleaner from under the stair cupboard and began vacuuming in the corridor and through to the living room. After she had finished, she then plumped up the pillows on the sofa and was surprised to find a small golden locket lodged down the side.
This has to belong to her, but why did she leave it here? she thought as she examined the cream cameo on the front.
It was strange, the angelic face, with flowers intertwined in her curly hair, looked familiar. She stared at it for a while and running to the Kitchen she compared the face on the newspaper with the cameo. There was no doubt about it, it was the girl¦ Vanessa. How could that be, she thought as she put her nail into the gap in the side of the locket and opened it up.
Inside was a small metallic object. Pushing her glasses up her nose, she tipped it out into her hand. The gold and silver disc had what looked like five small sparkling gems, inserted into a series of minuscule silver cogs.
Martha jumped and nearly dropped the disc as a small light flashed out of the middle diamond and the cogs began to whirl around.
Putting the disc quickly back into the locket, she snapped it tightly shut and running back to the sofa she put it back behind the cushion.
Just then, the doorbell rang.