Authors: Paul Pilkington
Tags: #Romantic Suspense, #Thriller, #Crime, #Suspense, #Mystery, #Romantic Mystery
Copyright 2015 Paul
spelling and grammar used throughout.
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Cover Design: Jeanine
Also by Paul
The One You Love (Emma
Holden trilogy, book 1)
The One You Fear (Emma
Holden trilogy, book 2)
The One You Trust (Emma
Holden trilogy, book 3)
Someone to Save You
Emma Holden and Me
For my family
and my readers.
I stood at the
threshold of the low-lit bedroom and smiled warmly at the two
people I cherished the most in the world – my husband, James, and
our six month old daughter, Grace. James, who smiled back, was
kneeling next to the cot, armed with a well-read board book edition
of Julia Donaldson’s
. It had become our bedtime
story of choice for the past few weeks – so much so that both James
and I knew it off by heart. We would sometimes recite it in the
darkness, patting Grace to sleep, for what seemed like hours.
‘Hope she goes
to sleep quicker than last night,’ I said softly. I’d been up in
the room for over an hour that previous evening. Each time I
thought Grace had dropped off to sleep, and raised my hand away
from her tiny back, Grace had risen up, like one of the undead.
‘Me too,’ James
yawned. He looked tired, washed out even.
‘I don’t mind
doing it again tonight,’ I offered, stepping back into the room and
admiring our daughter as she lay there on her back, zipped up in
her baby sleeping bag. I never got tired of baby-gazing.
Not now the
nightmare of the past few months had passed.
uncomfortably on the carpet. ‘It’s fine, honestly, George, it’s my
George – James
had called me that from the first day of meeting. He was one of
only two people who shortened my full name of Georgina – the other
being my father.
I tried again,
pushing some strands of hair behind my left ear. ‘It’s not like I
don’t owe you some nights –
half-light, I wasn’t sure whether there was a flicker of
disapproval on James’ face.
‘I’m fine,’ he
said simply, unsmiling. ‘Absolutely fine.’
getting changed for bed in the next door bedroom, I made my way
downstairs in my pyjamas, baby monitor receiver in hand. The baby
monitor, which monitored both sound and movement (via a pressure
sensor underneath the cot mattress), had been my idea in the weeks
leading up to Grace’s birth. James had wondered whether it would
add to any parental anxiety, resulting in us listening out for any
noise, or obsessing about the ticking icon on the screen’s display
to tell us our precious child was still breathing. But he had gone
along with my wishes, and faced with the fears of being a new
parent, had admitted that he was glad of it.
I placed the
baby monitor receiver on the living room table top and flopped down
onto the sofa. The monitor was already on, as I’d developed a habit
in the past few weeks of turning it on as soon as Grace was in the
cot – a couple of times recently James had forgotten to turn it on,
and once we hadn’t noticed this for almost two hours. It sounded
stupid, but the realisation that Grace had been up there,
unmonitored, had made me feel sick – as if we’d placed her in
harm’s way. It wasn’t like that, I knew, but that’s how it had
I reached over
and set the volume on the receiver to maximum. James was reading
softly, but you could still make out what he was saying – he was
nearing the end of the story – the wily mouse was about to scare
away the Gruffalo. Closing my eyes, I lay back on the sofa, only
then realising when the wave hit me, just how tired I really was.
But though I needed the rest, in some ways, I was disappointed to
have been rebuffed by my husband. Although getting Grace to sleep
wasn’t easy, it
an experience I didn’t enjoy missing out
on. I wanted to cherish every moment with our beautiful daughter.
Too much time had been wasted already, since she was born – time I
could never get back. But it wasn’t fair to deny James his time
with Grace – particularly as he was out at work all day.
why he had reacted the way he had.
Or maybe there
was more to it.
James had been
acting oddly for the past few weeks. He didn’t seem himself. Most
times he appeared completely normal, but there were occasions when
he was withdrawn and just looked sad. I’d asked him several times
if anything was the matter, but he’d sworn that there was
with dread, whether the events of the first four months of Grace’s
life had taken a fatal toll on our relationship. After all, James
had coped with a lot – it couldn’t have been easy dealing with a
brand new baby and a wife suffering from post-natal depression.
A wife who had
accused him of terrible things.
I fought the
urge to sleep and instead reached across to the newsletter that had
arrived in this morning’s post. It was the Autumn/Winter 2014
edition of the newsletter for the dental charity,
James and I had both worked for the charity, on placement during
our dental training. I’d been studying at UCL in London, while
James was up in Newcastle, but we had met in the baking heat of
East Africa, in a makeshift operating centre in rural Sudan. The
centre, run by the charity, carried out emergency dental surgery on
the impoverished population. The focus was on children, and I’d
lost count of the amount of operations I had performed in my
eighteen month placement there.
through the pages of the newsletter, skim reading the update from
the co-ordinator. The ten page publication was mostly filled with
images of happy children and dental workers – not just dentists,
but nurses and public health specialists. The photos really brought
back the memories of my time with them.
the monitor, I could hear James upstairs, moving onto the second
book of the night –
The Hungry Caterpillar
. We had a rule
that there would be three books, and no more. Grace was of course
too young to understand limits, but I had read that setting
expectations at bedtime early could head off trouble later on.
Sudan had been
a life changing experience for me, in more ways than one. I had met
James, a big burly man with a quiet confidence and friendly smile
in my second month, just after he had arrived. We had both
performed emergency surgery on a four year old boy who had fallen
from a tree and smashed his front teeth on the hard ground.
We hit it off
straight away, and three years later were living together in
London, partners in a practice in one of London’s most challenging
and socio-economically deprived areas, Tower Hamlets. It was a
challenge that we both relished – trying to improve the dental
health of children whose teeth were some of the worst in the
country. Now, seven years later, we owned the practice outright,
following the retirement of our colleague, Clive.
But despite the
busy workload, we still stayed in contact with
proportion of profits from our practice went to the charity.
I let go of the
newsletter, finally giving up the fight against tiredness and
closed my eyes again, listening to the soothing sound of my
I woke with my
right cheek pressed firmly against the unforgiving arm of the sofa.
Raising my head, I squinted across at the clock on the fireplace.
In the low light I could just read the hands. It was nine o’clock,
an hour since I had come downstairs. Still lying down, I put a hand
to my head, trying to steady myself. I’d never been good at
napping, and always felt awful when waking from a short sleep. Once
asleep, my body wanted it to be for a long time, and I knew that if
I didn’t get up now, there was a high risk that I would just fall
back to sleep. But that was no good, as I needed to be up to feed
Grace before bedtime.
I sat up, but
even then found myself closing my eyes and drifting.
And that’s when
I heard James.
‘I’ve made up
sound of his voice shocked me. I opened my eyes and expected him to
be in the room, standing over me. But he wasn’t there.
I must have
been dreaming. My heavy eyes closed again.
‘I don’t feel
life is worth living.’
Again I opened
my eyes. Was it coming from upstairs, via the baby monitor?
he continued, the words slow and considered. As I tried to shake
off my grogginess, it definitely seemed to be coming from the
receiver. ‘We’re all going away, to somewhere where no one can find
us – the middle of nowhere. And that’s where it will all end.’
believe what I had just heard.
Had I been
receiver, finally waking properly, I held it tightly against my
ear. But there was no sound coming from upstairs. Not even any sign
of movement. I stayed there for a minute or so, watching the second
hand of the clock on the fireplace as it ticked.
repeated in my mind.
I don’t feel
life is worth living…
where it will all end.
phone rang. Its sudden shrill shocked me more than it would
otherwise have done. Receiver still in hand, I hurried across the
darkened living room into the kitchen. As I did, I heard the
familiar creak of the floorboards upstairs as James crossed the
floor. He would be coming downstairs in the next few minutes.
I felt uneasy
at the thought. Had my whole world changed in such a split
turned the receiver off, and placed it behind the photo frame that
showed the family at Land’s End on the Cornish coast, at the UK’s
most westerly point. The photo, next to the famous Land’s End
signpost, had been taken eight weeks ago during our September
holiday. The holiday had been a celebration, of an emergence from
the darkness and despair of the previous four months. It had been
such an uplifting, sun-filled week of fun.
I picked up the
phone, noting that the caller display said “Withheld”. ‘Hello?’
The line went
dead almost immediately.
I replaced the
handset, then picked it back up and dialled 1471. I did this,
knowing that it would be a waste of time - if the caller ID on the
phone hadn’t identified the number, then this method wouldn’t
either. And sure enough, the automated voice confirmed that “the
caller withheld their number.”
I shrugged it
off and moved to the sink, finishing off the last few dishes that
remained unwashed from the evening meal. I rinsed them, reflecting
on how far I had come. Just a few months ago a call like that would
have sent me reeling.
I would have
jumped to conclusions – believing without doubt that the call was
from a woman with whom James was having an affair. She’d called,
thinking I was out, and wanted to arrange their next liaison.