Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract The Stationmaster’s Daughter by @KathMcGurl #NewRelease #Historical #Coastal #Dorset #Saga

cover
The Stationmaster’s Daughter by Kathleen McGurl
Review To Follow
Synopsis ~

Dorset, 1935. Stationmaster Ted has never cared much for romance. Occupied with ensuring England’s most beautiful railway runs on time, love has always felt like a comparatively trivial matter. Yet when he meets Annie Galbraith on the 8.42 train to Lynford, he can’t help but instantly fall for her.

But when the railway is forced to close and a terrible accident occurs within the station grounds, Ted finds his job and any hope of a relationship with Annie hanging in the balance…

Present day. Recovering from heartbreak after a disastrous marriage, Tilly decides to escape from the bustling capital and move to Dorset to stay with her dad, Ken.
When Ken convinces Tilly to help with the restoration of the old railway, she discovers a diary hidden in the old ticket office. Tilly is soon swept up in Ted’s story, and the fateful accident that changed his life forever.

But an encounter with an enigmatic stranger takes Tilly by surprise, and she can’t help but feel a connection with Ted’s story in the past…

Don’t miss this haunting and evocative timeslip novel from Kathleen McGurl.

Extract ~

Prologue

For a moment he was frozen, unable to move, unable to react to what had just happened. Time stood still, and he stood with it, not seeing, not hearing, doing nothing.
And then as his senses returned he registered screams of horror, followed by the sight of that broken and twisted body lying at the foot of the stairs. How had it happened? Annie was screaming, lung-bursting screams of pain and terror. His instinct was to rush to her, gather her up and hold her, but would that make things worse? There was no going back now. No returning to how things used to be, before… before today, before all the horrible, life-changing events of the day. It was all over now.
The screams continued, and he knew that the next minutes would alter his life forever. He knew too that even without the broken body, the screams, the fall, his life had already changed irrevocably. The door to a future he had only dared dream of had been slammed shut in his face.
He allowed himself a moment’s grief for what had been and for what might have yet been, and then he shook himself into action, hurrying down the stairs to deal with it all. Not to put it right – that wasn’t possible – but to do his best. For Annie.

KM
Kathleen McGurl
Website
Twitter

banner

Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract The Wartime Midwives by Daisy Styles #NewRelease #HistFic #Saga #WW2Fiction #ww2

coverThe Wartime Midwives by Daisy Styles
Review To Follow

Synopsis ~

In the dark days of war a new hope is born . . .
1939.

Mary Vale, a grand and imposing Mother & Baby Home, sits on the edge of the Lake District. Its doors are open to unmarried women who come to hide their condition and find sanctuary.

Women from all walks of life pass through Mary Vale, from beautiful waitress Emily, whose boyfriend has vanished without trace, to young Isla, cast out by her wealthy family after her first year at university goes horribly wrong.

Awaiting them is Nurse Ada and Sister Anne who work tirelessly to aid the mothers and safely deliver the babies. But the unforgiving Matron and Head of Governors, Captain Percival, have other, more sinister, ideas.

As war looms the women at Mary Vale must pull together for the sake of themselves and their babies and Ada and Anne must help protect their patients, no matter what the cost.

Extract ~ 

In her college digs in Durham, Isla Ross took small sips of
water from the glass she clutched in her trembling hand.
‘God!’ she gasped. ‘If only I could stop being sick …’
She was trying to pack her belongings into a suitcase in
order to vacate her room, which her crabby landlady was
keen to repossess.
‘I’ll be off soon,’ Isla had promised.
Secretly, she’d been hanging on for longer than was
sensible for one purpose
only –
to talk to Professor Wiley
about her condition.
‘God!’ She gagged again, as her stomach seemed to rise
into her mouth.
For somebody who hadn’t eaten for what seemed like
days, how could she keep on vomiting like this? After the
bout had passed, Isla almost collapsed on her narrow single bed; staring up at the ceiling, she tried to stop the tears
welling up in her eyes. What a mess she’d made. What an
unbelievable bloody fool she’d been. Up until she’d been
twenty-one years old, she’d never even as much as kissed
a boy; then, at the beginning of her second year at Dur

ham, she’d fallen head over heels madly in love with her
middle-aged English professor, who’d literally seduced
her with the poetry of William Shakespeare.
All through her first year at college her friends had tried
to involve Isla in their social life, which centred around the local dancehall. To start with, just to show willing, she’d
gone along with their giggling plans, allowed herself to be
made up and dressed up in borrowed crêpe dresses. At the
dancehall she’d drunk only shandy, while her friends
downed gin and orange, and she’d actually hidden in the
ladies’ toilet when the dance band struck up.
All Isla had ever wanted to do was to read books and
study English literature: Shakespeare, Byron, Keats, Chaucer, the Brontës, Jane Austen, T. S. Eliot. A star pupil at
Benenden, she’d come to Durham to
study – not to dance and drink and find a boyfriend. She appreciated her friends’ joie devivre (the last thing she wanted was for them to think
she was an intellectual snob), but she really did detest those
Saturday nights at the dancehall, where she actively avoided
men rather than enticed them. When her friends finally
realized how shy and retiring Isla was in public, they stopped
asking her to join them, for which Isla was truly grateful.
And that’s how her student life had been: quiet, peaceful,
studious and
happy – until Professor Keith Wiley had laid
eyes on the cleverest student in his tutorial group. Isla Ross,
with her silver-blue, dreamy Highland eyes and luscious pink lips set in a sweet, heart shaped face framed by curling silver-blonde hair. She had a soft young body, with curves in all the right places, and distinctly strong, muscular legs
because of all the hockey matches she’d played at boarding
school. Though innocent Isla didn’t know it, Keith Wiley
was famous for his dalliances with clever, pretty girls, whom
he charmed with compliments and attention. Nobody could
have been more infatuated than Isla when Wiley critiqued
her essays or selected her to read passages from Shakespeare
and Marlowe in her lilting Scottish voice.

When the professor had asked Isla if she’d like to
accompany him to the theatre to see a local production of The Tempest, Isla had almost swooned in delight. They’d met on a snowy night and walked into the town centre, the Professor gallantly taking her arm in order to stop her from slipping on the icy roads.
The production was mediocre, but Isla thought it was sublime; she knew all the
great lines from the play and whispered them under her
breath as she watched the actors on stage. ‘We are such
stuff as dreams are made on,’ she murmured.
Taking her hand and softly kissing her fingertips, Keith
Wiley had concluded the line for her: ‘And our little life is rounded with a sleep.’
Hearing his deep Northern voice in her ear, Isla’s pulse
raced and her heart beat so fast she was sure
he would hear it. During the interval they drank sherry at the bar
and discussed the performance; Isla had never been so
happy, so alert and so in tune with another human being. He might be double her age and her tutor, but she was quite incapable of
resisting his kisses; in fact, she welcomed them with an intensity that surprised her. ‘Goodnight, dearest girl,’ he’d murmured as they parted, with
the snow still falling softly around them. ‘Come and see
me in my rooms tomorrow; we have so much to discuss.’
Weak at the knees, Isla had agreed and gone to bed in
a haze of romantic infatuation.‘And
look where that got me!’ she thought bitterly now.

banner

Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract Juliet The Maniac by @julietescoria #LiteraryFiction @melvillehouse

cover
Juliet The Maniac by Juliet Escoria

Synopsis ~

It’s 1997, and 14-year-old Juliet has it pretty good. But over the course of the next two years, she rapidly begins to unravel, finding herself in a downward trajectory of mental illness and self-destruction that eventually leads to a ‘therapeutic boarding school’ in rural Oregon. From there, deep in the woods of the Northwest, comes an explosive portrayal of teenage life from the perspective of The Bad Friend, and a poignant reflection that refuses the traditional recovery arc. Like Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Cat Marnell’s How to Murder Your Life, Juliet the Maniac offers no clear answers, no definitive finish-line, just the wise acceptance of the challenges ahead. This punchy debut marks the breakout of a bold and singular young writer.

Extract ~

TWIN ETCHINGS

Nicole bought the switchblade when she went down to Tijuana with her mom and dad. They’d let her go off by herself as long as she was back when she’d promised. She pretended to go shopping for dresses but instead went to the nightclubs, where Mexican girls not much older than us blew whistles loud in her face, dumping cheap tequila down her throat. She pretended to swim but instead bought things you couldn’t here, pills that made us sleepy but not high, and, of course, that switchblade. It looked exactly like a joke switchblade I’d had as a kid, one that was actually a comb. Same black and silver handle, same plastic switch, just as flimsy and cheap looking. But the blade was heavy, pale and cold like the moon. She kept the switchblade in her makeup case, alongside the bright lipsticks she often put on but never wore. This was something we did a lot at her house—put on makeup. Everything Nicole owned was expensive: MAC eyeshadow, Clinique foundation, Dior powder, all purchased from Nordstrom or Saks. Nicole was a pro, blending powders on her eyelids and cheeks with gold-handled brushes until she looked like a doll. She plucked my eyebrows high and thin, drew an X across my cupid’s bow before slicking on lipstick, lines smooth and everything perfectly symmetrical. When she finished, I looked just like Drew Barrymore or Clara Bow. I didn’t think anything when she took the switchblade out of her makeup case. We were listening to the Sex Pistols in her new room in her new house, big and empty because they’d just moved in. The music was as loud as it would go, fuzzing the speakers of her gigantic stereo, the wild and quick beat of my heart. She flicked the knife out, held it close to my throat and laughed. Her eyes flickered and she made a face like a crazy killer and I laughed too, nervous, feeling as though for a second she had turned from my best friend into a stranger.

“God, I’m so fat,” she said, releasing me, looking at herself in the full-length mirror. She wasn’t fat. Her arms were thin and her legs were lean but she did have just the smallest ripple of fat on her stomach. “I wish I could just cut this off,” she said, switchblade hovering over her belly button. Her voice went soft, like she was saying it only to herself. “It makes me fucking hate myself.” I had told her she wasn’t fat enough times before, so I said nothing. “Does it hurt?” she asked, pointing to my hip. A few days earlier, we’d gone swimming in her new pool, and as we were changing she saw the scabs, a triangle I’d cut there with a pocketknife, one night secretly in my bedroom. I’d started cutting myself years ago, before I even knew what it was, just this thing to relieve the pressure when I felt too mad or too happy, a letting out of the air. She was the first to notice, and it made me feel naked and embarrassed, the way her eyes had splayed wide. But I realized now that she wasn’t disgusted, didn’t think I was a freak, the way I had thought that day. To her, the cuts made me cool. “No,” I said. “Not if you do it right. If you do it too light, it stings, but if you go just a bit deeper, it feels good.” I didn’t tell her you had to be in the right mood, or that it always hurt the next day. She could think I was tougher than that, even though I wasn’t, even though the whole reason I did it was because I was weak in the first place, a person who couldn’t stand the simple act of being herself. She took the point of the knife into her arm, and I watched her carve a line straight down. I didn’t tell her to stop. I didn’t tell her not to do it on her arm, not ever, but especially not during the summer, especially not a couple weeks before school began, this place on her body where anyone could see. So she drew two more lines, turning the first into an F. I watched her the whole time as she carefully carved each line, perfectly straight and even, like she had written it on paper. The album ended and neither of us got up. She was almost done

with the second T. She acted like it didn’t hurt, didn’t make any noises or faces, and with each line I felt something in myself softening, as though our secret thoughts were creeping out and curling together. This action done for me, to show me she was tough, to show me there was no difference between the two of us. When she was done, she held it up, an art project for me to admire, and I took my finger and smeared the blood in a straight line through the word, crossing it out. FATTY. The one and only thing she hated about herself—her body. I felt a heavy pull to lick her blood, taste its metallic hotness. Instead, I just wiped it on my pants, and later, I couldn’t get it out in the laundry, this copper patch belonging to Nicole, staining my favorite jeans.

JE
Juliet Escoria
Website
Twitter

banner

Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract Ted Bundy Conversations With A Killer by Stephen G. Michaud & Hugh Aynesworth #Netflix #TedBundy #SerialKiller #TrueCrime @TheMirrorBooks

cover
Ted Bundy Conversations With A Killer by Stephen G. Michaud & Hugh Aynesworth
Review To Follow

Synopsis ~

The book behind the sensational Netflix series The Ted Bundy Tapes.

Now the subject of a major motion picture, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, starring Zac Efron

Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer was born out of more than 150 hours of exclusive interview footage with Bundy himself, recorded on death row before his execution in a Florida electric chair.

Bundy’s shocking eleventh-hour confessions to journalists Stephen G. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth provide a horrifying insight into the twisted mind of America’s most notorious serial killer.

He was a sadistic monster.

A master manipulator.

His grisly killing spree left at least 30 innocent young women dead.

This is Ted Bundy in his own words.

Extract ~

TB: Uh huh. That would be fair to say. The sexual activity was very responsive and very energetic. Uh, at certain parts of the evening he felt himself on the edge of taking her life, just, just out of the desire to do so. But the justifications were not there. Nor was that malignant condition that active at that time. It was active, but not at high strength. But when morning came around and they dressed and he took the girl back to the area where she lived, he felt like he’d accomplished something.

He deluded himself at that point into thinking that he had really conquered those impulses. But within a period of time he discovered that that was an inaccurate conclusion. He didn’t recognize then, or perhaps he did not want to recognize, that just the matter of a week or two later he probably would have killed her.

SM: What happens when the malignant part cannot be controlled or insists on gratification? At Lake Sammamish, for instance, there were great risks taken. But what if the urge is there and it can’t, for some reason, be met?

TB (pause): In the wake of a particular crime, he was not in a state of remission. That is, he actively wanted to go out and seek a victim. But he knew that he could not afford to do so without creating an intolerable amount of more public frenzy and panic, as well as police activity.

But while driving one day, he saw a young girl walking along a deserted area. It was just too good an opportunity to pass up. So he exited his car and approached the girl and shoved her into a bushy field. Without any preparation. No planning. Without any disguise. Just an impulsive kind of thing. And then he was faced with the prospect:
What should he do with her? He’d have to debate a considerable amount. There had been an illegal act of rape. Yet he refrained from harming her physically and left the scene and returned to his car and drove home. Had it occurred a few weeks later, he wouldn’t have acted in the same way. Or a few days later. But he did not want to create a great amount of public furor because it would reduce the opportunity for victims later on and it would increase the possibility of eyewitness reports. And he knew enough about these circumstances that, in all likelihood, it wouldn’t be reported. Or if it was reported, nothing much would be done about it. They wouldn’t necessarily link it to the other crimes. It would have been a simple act of rape of the type that is fairly common.
(Bundy said that the act of rape alone did not satisfy “the entity.” But during the last segment of this last interview, he described another scene in which, he maintained, the object was rape. Two days before his execution, Ted told Dennis Couch of the Salt Lake County sheriff’s office how he had murdered sixteen-year-old Nancy Wilcox in October of 1974. According to Couch, the account Bundy gave of the crime matches this story, almost verbatim.)

TB: As we’ve discussed before, frequently after this individual, uh, committed a murder, he would lapse, uh, into a period of sorrow, remorse, et cetera. And for a period of time he would do everything to overcome and otherwise repress the, uh, the overt behavior. Indeed, on one particular occasion he went to extraordinary lengths to do this following a crime, and he felt that he had succeeded, that the abnormal course of conduct had just sort of, uh, extinguished itself. He became somewhat satisfied and secure with the feeling that he had accomplished this.

But in this instance, the cracks in the façade, as it were, began to appear. He then would attempt to channel the desire within him into a different area, into something which was still, uh, improper, immoral or illegal, but something that was less serious, less severe.
Uh, and so he, in sort of a, uh, a compromise decided that rather than go out and inflict this mortal injury on a someone he would search out a victim in such a way that there would be no possibility of detection and he would not be forced into a position of having to kill. In essence he compromised into just going out and performing an act of rape, as it were.

So, he, uh, began to just go out driving around the suburbs, uh, in this city, uh, that he was living in, and one particular evening he’s driving down a fairly dark street and saw a girl walking along the street. Okay?

SM: Uh huh.

TB: Because the area was dark and she was alone, he decided to select her as the victim for this intended act of sexual assault. He parked his car down the street, and, uh, then ran up behind the girl.

Just as he came up upon her, they were at a place where there was an orchard, or a number of trees or something. As he came up behind her she heard him. She turned around and he brandished a knife and grabbed her by the arm and told her to do what he wanted her to do. You know, to follow him.

SM: Yeah.

TB: He pushed her off the sidewalk into this darkened, wooded area, and uh, told her to submit and do what he wanted her to do.

She began to argue with him and he kept telling her to be quiet. She said she didn’t believe he would do anything to her, anyway. Then he began to try to remove her clothes and she would, uh, continue to struggle in a feeble manner. And also voice verbally her objections to what was going on.

And then, uh, the significance, now, is that his intent with this victim was not to harm her. He thought this was going to be a significant departure; perhaps even a way of deconditioning himself, to climb down that ladder or, uh, I can’t think of a good word, de-, de-escalate this level of violence to the point where there would be no violence at all. Even no necessity for that kind of encounter at all.

SM: I see.

TB: But he found himself with this girl who was struggling and screaming. Uh, not screaming, but let’s say just basically arguing with him. There were houses in the vicinity and he was concerned that somebody might hear. And so, in an attempt to stop her from talking or arguing, he placed his hand over her mouth.

She stopped and he attempted to remove her clothes and she began to object again. At this point, he was in a state of not just agitation, but something on the order of panic. He was fearing that she would arouse somebody in the vicinity.

So, not thinking clearly but still intending not to harm her, let’s say, he placed his hands around her throat.

SM: Uh huh.

TB: Just to throttle her into unconsciousness so that she wouldn’t scream anymore. She stopped struggling, and it appeared that she was unconscious. But not, in his opinion, to a point where he had killed her.

SM: Right.

TB: Then let’s say he removed her clothes and raped her and put his own clothes back on. At about that point, he began to notice that the girl wasn’t moving. It appeared, although he wasn’t certain, that he’d done what he had promised himself he wouldn’t do. And he had done it, really, almost inadvertently.

Uh, so he took the girl by one of her arms and pulled her to a darkened corner of this little orchard and then, in a fit of panic, fled the scene. He got back in his car and drove back to his house, still not knowing if the girl was alive or dead.

But once he returned to the house, upon reflection he began to wonder. He didn’t know if he’d left anything at the crime scene. He hadn’t thought about publicity and physical evidence.

So he decided to return to the scene and if the body was there to recover it and take it somewhere else where it wouldn’t be found.

SM: Is this the same night?

TB: Huh? Oh, yeah. But he faced two problems in returning to the scene. First, prior to the incident he was in a state of intoxication, and he didn’t know the area that well. So he couldn’t remember exactly where it was he had to return, couldn’t find his way back, as it were.

But let’s say, after a considerable period of time of driving about in the general vicinity, uh, he was able to locate the area. It was getting fairly late about this time.
Nobody was in the vicinity, so apparently she hadn’t gotten up and gone away and the police hadn’t returned to the scene. Or she was still there.
He parked his car at the curb in front of this small orchard and walked into it and saw that, in fact, the body was still in the same position he’d left it.
So it was clear that the girl was dead.

So he carried the body to his car and put it in and covered it. Then he returned to the general area with a flashlight and scoured it to pick up everything that he may have left there – her clothing, et cetera. He placed that in the car and then returned to his apartment.

SM: Did he find everything?

TB: I don’t know.

SM: Would he have worn a mask?

TB: No, I don’t think so. I mean, he didn’t… it was dark and he…

SM: Well, the reason I asked is that if the intent was not to kill the victim, you would think that there would have been some kind of measure taken to disguise his identity.

TB: In a way, it was planned, but in a way it was like a spur of the moment thing for this person. He figured the object was to do it in such a way that it would be done in a very dark scene. Eventually, he found that kind of opportunity.

Stephen
Stephen G. Michaud
Website

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***
Bundy Blog Tour square

Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract Crushed by @kate_hamer #NewRelease #LiteraryFiction #Thriller @FaberBooks

cover
Crushed by Kate Hamer

Synopsis ~

Phoebe stands on Pulteney Bridge, tights gashed from toe to thigh. The shock of mangled metal and blood-stained walls flashes through her mind as she tries to cover her face so she won’t be recognised. It wouldn’t do to be spotted looking like this. She’s missing a shoe. She feels sick.

Phoebe thought murder and murder happened. Thoughts are just thoughts, they said. Now she knows they were wrong.

At home, Phoebe arranges the scissors and knives so they point toward her mother’s room. She is exhausted, making sure there’s no trace of herself – not a single hair, not even her scent – left anywhere in the house. She must not let her thoughts unravel, because if they do, there’s no telling who might be caught in the crossfire, and Phoebe will have to live with the consequences.

Extract ~

Phoebe

It was a book full of hate. The words must have been scratched underground at the dawn of time. They should’ve stayed there and never come to the surface. It set it all off again.
I’ve had to come to the only place that can calm me down. The corner of Pulteney Bridge. The only thing is, I’ve lost a shoe so people keep looking. My tights have an open gash from toe to thigh, flashing bright white flesh. I try to cover my face with my hair so I won’t be recognised. Things get reported back. I don’t know where my bag has gone – perhaps I dropped it on the way and didn’t notice.
I’d been calm as the sea before that book. It may as well have come crawling towards me on its elbows, dragging its black and bursting body behind. I should have heeded the inkling I had straight away that it was a bomb about to explode.
I lean against the cool stone of the bridge and look over the water to the weir. Usually it soothes me, but not today. In this water are hidden many ancient things. Sometimes one pops out – a coin, a tin mask, a figure of a bull, a crown, a pin. People are always surprised. Why should they be? The river is at the end of a vast drain sluicing straight down from the Roman bathhouse.
The sun glints off the water. The ancient buildings look more friendly in this light. It turns their darkness the colour of honey. The trees are full of early summer and shake their leaves in the breeze. Yet despite the bright surroundings I cannot be contained this time and I have to lean further over the wall, sickness cramping my stomach.
I’d tried to explain to Grace.
‘It’s just a book,’ she said. ‘It’s just a dusty old copy with half the pages falling out because they won’t pay for new ones. What are you on about?’
Her soft blue eyes travelled from side to side as she looked behind me. Her hair is cropped close to her head. The sight of it always makes me feel tender because I know she cuts it herself. It’s so short you can see the shape of her pretty little skull. I wanted to get her attention back. I cupped my hand over my mouth and whispered to her, quoting from the text.
‘I’ve been eating on the “insane root” again. Not now. Not today. A couple of weeks ago.’
Her eyes snapped back on my face and she nodded and gave a little laugh. ‘I’m partial to a few substances myself.’ Then she frowned. ‘You want to be careful, though, you know. Stuff like that can be dangerous.’
I turned away from her. I was bored of tellings-off. I felt light and free. Nothing bad was going to happen. It was just the warm day that had made me feel there could be a bomb, and Mr Jonasson being so close. All the pieces of me that had flown out came back and began fitting themselves together safely with hardly any gaps left in between.
That’s where it should’ve stopped.
But, no. I had to take it further, didn’t I? I had to go on testing myself, trying things out.
I’ve been told once, thoughts are just that by a woman with a face that looked like a little pussy-cat. The more I stared at her the more she seemed to resemble one.
Usually my tests are of the mundane kind. If I think There will be a red car when I turn this corner, perhaps there will be one. What if I wish for blackberry ice cream on the menu and there it is? If I want that plate to fall, it might and shatter on the stone floor. If, if, if, if. The results so far have been inconclusive.
Not this time.
It must’ve been the darkness of the story that made me do it. It was to show myself it couldn’t happen, that the light and airy feeling was how things were going to be from now on. One last little time, I thought. TRY IT OUT.
Was it five or ten minutes later we heard the commotion? Perhaps I was the only one that went towards it. I slipped out and ran down the road until I saw. There was mangled
metal. Blood ran down the walls.
I froze a good few moments before I ran again.
I reach for the front door key that I wear on a heavy chain around my neck. It’s more precious to me than any piece of jewellery could ever be. Hard won. I clasp it now like a rosary. There’s probably keys down there in the water too, along with the other old Roman stuff washed down from the baths. I can almost see it all, bubbling up to the top. Statues and pendants and nails surfacing at once in a thick and filthy mass, and I feel sick again and have to lean right over the wall. A car behind me beeps, once, loudly. They thought I was about to fall, or jump. Maybe I was. I need to move, but maybe I don’t have a choice.

Orla

Well, that was sickening.
I feel shaken to the pit of my stomach as I walk away. They haven’t got enough tents to cover it all up because the blood goes right along the wall on Walcot Street. They were trying to do it in the chaos and then they made everyone drive or walk away and closed the road as quick as they could. Horrific. Stuff like this just doesn’t happen in a place like Bath. I didn’t mean to look but it’s hard not to. It was mesmerising. It’s unbelievable how much blood people have in them. The red was in a stripe coming out from the back of the plastic they’ve rigged up. I could see how it had got cemented in between the blackened old stones and I wondered how they were ever going to get it out. They’ll have to scrape right into the gaps and use hoses so there’ll be a wash of pink water swirling across the road.
Behind the yellow tape there’s people trundling around in white plastic suits now. They look so out of place against all that dirty ancient stone, it’s like flickering beings have been beamed in from the future. My heart feels like it’s never going to slow down to its usual pace. I want to cry so badly. I’m only trying to hold on until I get home. I concentrate hard on looking at the normal little things I see every day to keep me going until I can wail in my bedroom. There’s a shop of mirrors full of glitter. There’s the giant carved head looming over the undertaker’s door – Bath is full of odd things like that, carvings and statues and old buildings. When I was little I always used to whisper ‘Hello’ to the head as I passed because he looked like he was asking, ‘Is it your turn yet? Will you be next?’ And I thought starting a conversation might please him so he’d decide not to choose me. He seems to be staring extra hard and pointedly today. It must be because of what just happened. ‘Hello,’ I whisper in a trembling voice. ‘Not me right now. I’m not ready.’
By the time I get to the fruit shop with bright green plastic grass in the window, my breathing has stopped hurting so much.
How many times and in different lights and times of day have I seen all these ordinary things? Hundreds. Thousands. I try to make them take the place of what I’ve just seen.
That’s when I see Phoebe’s bag dumped in the shop doorway. The sickness returns. What’s happened to her? What’s happened to her? I pick the bag up and stand, rubbing the striped canvas between my fingers, wondering what to do. It seems strangely violent, this familiar bag being here that I’ve seen a million times, swinging on Phoebe’s shoulder, the hard outline of books showing through the fabric. It’s not exactly her dumped body but something makes me think of it. I hug it close, shaking now. God, she frightens me sometimes. It terrifies me the way she carries on. My heart lurches: what if it’s her that’s been killed on Walcot Street? What if it was her blood I saw? I close my eyes and sway, the idea being so shockingly awful. No, it can’t be. I won’t allow myself to think that. I’ll never make it back.
I hurry on, the taste of home so strong now it’s almost on my tongue. I can’t wait to collapse inside and feel safe, to phone Phoebe and make sure she’s all right. But up ahead are Belinda and her crew, and they’re walking so slowly I’ll have no choice but to pass them – it’ll look too odd if I slow down to their pace behind.
As I catch up with them their tense bright faces tighten towards me.
‘Orla, did you see it?’ Samantha’s eyes are starry with the sight of the blood. The ribbon of it in the sun is still glittering her eyes.
‘Yes. Horrible.’
We all nod even though I can see it’s put a spring in all their steps. They’ll go home and dissect it together, crouching on one of their beds with their arms around their knees and big, pointy-cornered smiles on their faces they can’t wipe off they’re so excited.
It’s such a beautiful day. The sky is a perfect blue. I have an intense longing to be off this dusty pavement with these girls clucking and mauling over the horror like they’re actually sticking their fingers into it and dabbling there. I think of our garden just down the road. It’s my favourite place in the world. Walled in on three sides and with an apple tree in the middle. In the summer, green vines crawl up the brickwork and the scent of the passion flowers passes over me. Mum and Dad aren’t really that into it so I can poke about in there to my heart’s content. Even when it’s cold I’ll sit out on the bench wrapped in a blanket. In the winter the plants have their own bare beauty with all their bones and pods showing like they’ve been turned inside out. I need to be there now.
‘Got to go.’ A wave of awkwardness washes over me. What’s wrong with me? I can’t even make a quick getaway without breaking into a terrible sweat.
‘Hey,’ Belinda calls after me. ‘What was it Grace was saying today?’
I shrug like I don’t know but I heard perfectly well. I was sitting right next to her. Someone had just read a piece out from the supplementary notes. It was Simon, I think.
‘The role of the witch is to demonstrate the female, intuitive, otherworldly power of the mind.’
And while we were all pondering it, supposedly thinking about discussion points, Grace came up with one of her own.
She said, ‘Did somebody actually write this shit?’
It wasn’t even under her breath. In a way it was kind of thrilling, like breaking the law must be.
Everyone heard but nothing happened about it. It never does. She gets away with anything because of her circumstances. Grace might be only sixteen, while Phoebe and me are seventeen, but Grace always seems by far the oldest – as if she’s twice our age and she’s been married and had three kids already.
Finally I see our house and the face of it seems like the sweetest thing I’ve ever laid eyes on. As I’m trying to get the key into the lock, the door opens and I collapse inside into Mum’s arms.
‘Did you see?’ she asks. ‘Carol from church just called and told me what’s happened. She’s stuck in the traffic.’
I nod and I can feel my mouth turning down so sharp at the corners it actually hurts.
‘Oh Orla.’ She hugs me tight. ‘My darling, darling girl. I was hoping you hadn’t. I was hoping you’d never have to witness something like that.’

KH
Kate Hamer
Website
Twitter

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***
banner