The Risk of Darkness

Page 5

Magda Fitzroy was an atheist of the old school. Atheist, socialist, psychiatrist, rationalist, formed in the classic Hampstead mould. Where her daughter’s Christianity, let alone her desire to be ordained a priest, had come from was to her both a mystery and a matter for ridicule. And then the look was gone. Her mother lay, hurt and afraid, in shock and Jane felt for her; she let the paramedics in and told them the little she knew.

One of them examined the cuts on Magda’s head. “I’m Larry,” he said, “and this is Al. What’s your name, my love?”

“I am Dr Magda Fitzroy and I am not your love.”

“Aw, pity about that, Magda.”

“Dr Fitzroy.”

He glanced up at Jane. “She always like this?”

“Oh yes. Ignore her at your peril.”

“You all right?”

Jane had sat down suddenly, hit by the realisation that her mother had been robbed and attacked in her home one quiet weekday morning while the world went about its business, and that she might well have been dead. She began to cry.


The Holly Bush was like something out of a Hammer Horror film, Ed thought, driving up the steep slope to the forecourt. It stood above the fast main road, ugly, turreted and, at night, lit with neon and strings of fairy lights. At Christmas, an illuminated Santa with sleigh and reindeer leered out at the passing traffic, outlined in lights that chased each other endlessly round. Enough to give you a bloody migraine if you stared at them long enough. Only no one did. They shot past, or they were up the slope and in through the door.

It smelled the way that kind of place always smelled, and in the day it looked frowsty and peeling. At least at night the lights gave it a bit of glamour. Not that Ed had been there more than a couple of times at night. Work and pleasure, such pleasure as there was coming to drink in the Holly Bush, didn’t mix.


Someone was whistling at the back. There had been one vehicle in the car park. It wasn’t a time of year for the sort of people who stopped overnight at the Holly Bush, the reps and lower-pond-life businessmen. The hotel had five bedrooms, which Ed had never seen, three bars, a restaurant and a games room. The cloakrooms, which were all Ed really knew, were jazzed up with horrendous wallpaper, fat blue roses and vivid green vines.


Keep your nerve, that was the thing. Business as usual. Act normal.

At first, that had been scary but it had sorted everything out the year before.

“Bri …”

“All right, I’m bloody here—Oh. It’s you. Do you have to bloody shout the place down?”

“Thought you was in the cellar. OK, what’d you need?”

“How the hell should I know? Your job to go and find out.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll get to the cloakrooms. I meant what else?”

“What you got?”

All the stock had been in the boot earlier, before it had happened, but now Ed had put the boxes on the back seat, covered with an old dog rug.

“Marlboro, Silk Cut, B & H. Oh and a few Hamlets.”

“How much?”

“Same as last time.”

“How many?”

“I can let you have five hundred.”

“Ay, go on then. You get t’ cloakrooms sorted, I’ll get your money.”

The door behind Ed opened and a couple of men came in. They’d walked past the car then, they … No. They hadn’t. The car was closed and locked, everything covered up, looking like any other car.

“You do coffees?”

“Just the filter.”

“Right, two filters.”

“Owt for you, Ed?”

Yes, be best to hang about a bit, chat, not seem too bothered about rushing off.

“White, one sugar. Thanks.”

The cloakroom machines were easily sorted. Two of condoms needed, one of tampons, still plenty of tights in there, not much call for those at the Holly Bush. The profits weren’t that great, even if the goods came at knock-off prices. It was the cigarettes that fetched the money. They went into a cardboard box labelled Tomato Soup, all sealed up.

One of the men came in. Had a quick look. Ed went on filling up the tower of packets inside the machine, head bent. The man laughed.

“Helping to keep the birth rate down?”

In the bar, the coffee was on the counter, next to a flat tin. Ed glanced around but the other man was deep in the Racing Post, didn’t even look up. The coffee was all right, though, and Brian had gone into the back so there was no need to chat.

“See you,” Ed shouted. There was a grunt from somewhere.

The stuff on the seat had to be covered up again. Later, it could go back into the boot. Later.

The thought of what was in the car boot now sent the old, longed-for surge of electricity up through Ed’s body. When it came, there was nothing, nothing like it, no other excitement to touch it, nothing so utterly satisfying. Where did it come from, this urge that was like no other, this craving that, when answered, brought the deepest of pleasures? To other people, a child was a son or a daughter, a pretty little kid passing in the street, or a wailing nuisance, something to be taught the alphabet and dressed up, something smelly, snotty or cute, whatever. To Ed, a child was all of those things. But, every so often came the craving. When it did, a child was an opportunity.

The car turned out of the Holly Bush and accelerated on to the dual carriageway, just as the petrol warning light flashed amber.

“Bugger.” There was a service station at Kitby. Don’t chance it, don’t risk running out. Jesus, the thought was enough. OK, slow down, eke it out, don’t burn up the bloody fuel.

Kitby petrol station was a lifetime coming.


Simon Serrailler sat with Jim Chapman in his office. They were both silent, both thinking. Simon had not gone back to Lafferton. Because he hoped the action was going to be here, and to end here, a result for him as well as for the North Riding force. And because his mood had lifted and he was enjoying his involvement.

Chapman sat, fingers tip to tip in front of his nose, looking down on his desk. The visit to the village where the abducted child lived had been as agonising as they had expected. Serrailler had had David Angus’s parents at the front of his mind, but they had been controlled by comparison with the Suddens. He had never witnessed such raw, open grief, such anger and anguish and storms of tears. The mother had torn at her own face and pulled strands of her hair until they came out, screaming at the police liaison officer with her. People had stood staring, wild-eyed and hostile, at the police, at the same time as they showed their furious need of them.

Both men had come away shaken.

Now, Jim Chapman reached for the phone. His every movement seemed planned, every word measured. Simon watched him.

“I want,” he said, “every silver-coloured Mondeo sighted anywhere on the roads in our area followed and the registration checked. Any details tallying with the first three, repeat, three letters, that car is to be stopped, the driver questioned and the car searched. And I want every silver Mondeo registered in our area and having those initial letters traced and the owner visited. Repeat, every silver Mondeo.”

He put the receiver down and looked at Serrailler. “What?”

Simon shook his head. “Your call.”

“It takes what it takes. Men. Overtime. Whatever.” He got up. “I’d like to nip up to the hospital again, see my daughter. Are you still with us, Simon?”

“Am I still welcome?”

Jim Chapman raised his eyebrows at him as he left the room.

“He’ll go to Real Madrid.”

“Real wouldn’t want him.”

“Crap, of course they’d want him. He’s genius.”

“Well, they can’t all go to Real. I reckon it’ll be AC Milan.”

PC Dave Hennessy drained the can of Coke and scrunched it up to the size of a chicken nugget. It was one of the things he did.

“Here, Karl reckons he’s gonna pop the question come Friday.”

“Wondered what the fat grin was for. That’ll sort him. No more evenings pumping iron.”

“Naw, he’s going for the nationals, he’s gotta keep that up. You can’t afford to miss a day, that level of weightlifting.”

“Read my lips: ‘That’ll sort him.’ You met Linda?”

“Seen her.”

“Yeah, well, I went to school with her. She’s bloody terrifying. It’ll be under the thumb.”

Nick Paterson laughed, thinking about it. They were sitting up on the lay-by in the shade. He shifted his legs and slipped down a bit in the seat. Might be time for ten minutes.

“You see that notice this morning? CID woman pinned it up apparently.”


“Gay march through York. Wear your uniform with pride.”

Nick snorted in derision. “That’s wrong. It’s in the police rules. You don’t join political marches, you don’t become an activist … They want to go on perv marches they should get a different job.”

“You can’t say that.”

“Pervs is what I said and pervs is what I meant.”

“Here!” Nick sat up. “You see that?”

“I got my eyes shut.”

“Silver Mondeo.”

“Hundreds of them.”

“See the driver? Man, dark jacket, dark hair.” Nick let the clutch in and roared down the slip road on to the dual carriageway. “Find out that number again.”

But Dave was already on to it.

Two miles on and doing eighty, they shot by the service station.

“Fuck it. He’s in there,” Dave shouted.

“Stop at the Conway roundabout, wait for him.”

“There’s four routes he could take. We can’t cover them all.”

“Call for back-up.”

“Be halfway to Scotland by then.”

“Might not have been him anyway.”

They slowed to fifty. Ahead, in the east, the clouds were banking up, storm grey and darkening.

“I don’t know though,” Nick said after a moment. “I had a feeling about that one.”

It was difficult, not having any official role here. Simon couldn’t stay for ever. If today ended in a blank, he would have to return to Lafferton tomorrow morning.

He wandered down the corridor towards the CID room. What did they think of him here? Were they all watching him, speculating? Stations were gossip shops, but it was unusual for the gossip to spread about an outsider. He was irritated.

The atmosphere was quiet but the tension was there, the sense that this time, maybe, perhaps, something would break, there would be a lead, it might be coming to the boil. At the far end of the room, the faces of the children, three of them now, looked out.


A DC was beckoning him over. Simon took the phone he was holding out. “Serrailler.”

“I’m heading back,” Jim Chapman said. “Pick you up on my way.”

“Where are we going?”

“Main road towards Scarborough. Silver Mondeo speeding. Patrol car intercepted. Driver put his foot down. Registration tallies. Get down to the forecourt, I’ll not be stopping.”

Simon dropped the phone and ran.

In the car, which barely drew up to let him scramble in, Chapman explained.

“They spotted him, then lost him. Picked him up again at a roundabout, flagged him down but he wouldn’t stop.”

Chapman’s driver was picking up speed.


“Tallies—driver has dark hair, wearing a dark jacket, has noticeably pale skin apparently, which the icecream van chap remarked on … no passengers. We’ve got cars coming in to cover routes off.”

They were on the dual carriageway now, and Chapman was in touch with the patrol immediately behind the Mondeo. Simon felt the old clench in the pit of his stomach, as the adrenalin rushed in. He had the sense that this might be it. Their car was doing over a hundred now, scenery flashing by. A face at a vehicle window, a driver alarmed at their speed, then another, gone. A lorry, pulling in to let them pass. A blur of red. A tanker. Blare of a horn. Gone. It was raining, the sky ahead was sulphurous.

A hundred and five, steady.

Then, just in front, the blue light of a patrol car.

“Storm’s coming in from the sea,” Chapman said. “You ever been over this way?”

“I’ve a photograph of myself on a donkey at Scarborough.” Serrailler glanced out of the rear window and spotted a second patrol car.

Chapman was on the phone again. The Mondeo was still moving, still heading east.

They hit a wall of rain and tore a way through it.


Crap way to earn a living. Crap way to live. Filling vending machines with condoms and tampons, selling illegal fags. What was it about? There ought to be more.

There was more.

The car could move when it had to, eating up the shining wet road.

What would he have said? Or she for that matter? We expected better of you. We wanted more for you. The whining pasty faces, his watery blue eyes. Pathetic.

Weak. Never be.

There was the dark space. Hole. No one knew. That was the end of it and didn’t signify. It was the beginning that signified. The moment of waking. The faintest shadow of a shadow.

The needle of excited dread.

The rain was streaming down the window and bouncing off the bonnet. How far from home? Too far. No happy evening with Kyra then. Kyra’s face shone out of the rainstorm, bright-eyed. Kyra. Different. Funny that. Kyra was safe as houses. No harm would ever come to Kyra. It was good to know, good to be confident. Kyra enjoyed coming round, getting away from her own home, the lack of interest or attention, the endless shouting and chivvying and swearing. Kyra deserved more, deserved someone listening, playing, having fun, thinking up things to do. Kyra.

Why was Kyra different?

It puzzled Ed.

They were there. They had been left a long way back but now they were there again, white streaking up, blue flashing. Fuck it. The road was straight and fast but the rain didn’t help. It was good to know exactly what was ahead though, not be driving blindly anywhere, in the desperation to shake them off, get away.

The last time Kyra had been round she had looked at the box of photographs and there were half a dozen of Scarborough. She’d loved it. The donkeys. The castle. Then Ed on a donkey. Ed with a bucket and spade. Then a postcard of the foreshore with the fairy lights on.

“I wish I could go there. One day, will you and me go there? Will you take me to Scarborough, Ed?”

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