Authors: Linwood Barclay
Tags: #Crime &, #Mystery
‘A fast-moving roller-coaster of a read’
‘Enjoyably creepy … keeps one turning the pages’
‘Genuinely exciting … once you start, you simply cannot stop reading’
‘This is one of those rare read-at-one-sitting books … Barclay is an extremely talented storyteller and a great addition to the crime thriller genre’
‘A gripping web of deception and intrigue’
Woman & Home
Linwood Barclay lives in Canada with his family. He used to help run a holiday resort, before beginning his career working on various newspapers and finally writing his own regular column. He left the newspaper world in 2008 to write novels full time.
Linwood’s first major thriller,
No Time for Goodbye,
was a number one bestselling book in the UK in 2008. It sold more than 800,000 copies and has been optioned to be made into a film. Linwood’s novels have now been sold around the world and translated into many languages.
Other books by Linwood Barclay
No Time for Goodbye
Fear the Worst
Too Close to Home
Never Look Away
She’d been dreaming that she was already dead. Then, just before her dream came true, she opened her eyes.
With the little energy she had, she tried to move, but she was pinned down, tied in somehow. Tired, she lifted a bloody hand from her lap and her fingers felt the strap that ran across her chest. She knew its texture, its smoothness. A seat belt.
She was in a car, sitting in the front.
She looked around and it came to her that it was her own car. Yet she wasn’t behind the steering wheel. She was strapped into the passenger seat.
She blinked a couple of times, thinking there must be something wrong with her eyes because she couldn’t really make anything out. Then it became clear that it wasn’t a problem with her sight.
It was night.
She gazed out through the windscreen, to see stars shining in the sky. It was a lovely evening, if she forgot about how all the blood was draining from her body.
It was hard for her to hold her head up, but with what strength she still had, she looked around. As she took in the starkness, the strangeness of where she was, she wondered if she might actually be dead already.
Maybe this was heaven? There was a certain peace about it. Everything was so white. There was a sliver of moon in the cloudless sky. It lit up the landscape, which was totally flat and seemed to go on forever.
Was her car parked on a snowy field? Far, far away, she thought she could make out something. There was a dark, uneven border running straight across the top of the whiteness. Trees, maybe? The thick, black line almost had the look of a – of a shoreline.
‘What?’ she said quietly to herself.
Slowly, she began to understand where she was. No – not
. She was starting to
where she was, but she couldn’t
She was on ice.
The car was sitting on a frozen lake somewhere in the northern New England area of the US. And it was quite some way out, as far as she could tell.
‘No, no, no, no, no,’ she said to herself as she tried hard to think. It was only the middle of December. The temperatures had plunged a week ago. While it might have been cold enough for the lake to start freezing over, it certainly hadn’t been cold long enough to make the ice thick enough to support a—
She felt the front end of the car dip ever so slightly, probably no more than an inch. That would make sense. The car was heaviest at the front, where the engine was.
She knew she had to get out of this car. If the ice was able to support something as heavy as a car, at least for this long, surely it would keep her up if she could get herself out. She could start walking, whichever way would get her to the closest shore.
Could she even walk? She touched her hand to her belly. Everything she felt was warm, and wet. How many times had she been stabbed? That was what had happened, right? She could see the knife, the light catching the blade, and then—
The knife had gone into her twice, she thought. Then everything had faded to black.
But she wasn’t.
She must have had just a hint of a pulse. It must not have been noticed as she was put into the car and buckled in. Then she had been driven out here to the middle of this lake, where, someone must have figured, the car would soon go through the ice and sink to the bottom.
A car with a body inside it, dumped in a lake near the shore – someone might discover that too easily.
But a car with a body inside it that sank to the bottom out in the middle of a lake, what were the odds anyone would ever find that?
She knew she had to find the strength. She had to get out of this car now, before it went through the ice. Did she have her mobile? If she could call for help, they could come looking for her out on the ice. She wouldn’t have to walk all the way back to—
The car lurched forward. The way it was leaning, her view ahead now was snow-dusted ice instead of the far shore. The moon was casting enough light for her to see the inside of the car. There was no sign of her handbag, which was where she kept her mobile. Whether she had a phone or not, it didn’t change the fact that she had to get out of this car.
She had to get out right now.
She reached around to her side, looking for the button to release the seat belt. She found it and pressed with her thumb. The combined lap and shoulder strap began to move, catching briefly on her arm. She pulled it out of the way and the belt receded into the pillar between the back and front door.
She reached down for the door handle and pulled. The door opened only slightly. It was enough for freezing-cold water to start rushing in around her feet.
‘No, no,’ she whispered.
As water started to fill the inside, the car tilted more. She had to put her hands flat on the dashboard to keep herself in the seat as the car shifted forward. With one hand on the dashboard, she pushed with the other on the door, but she couldn’t get it to open. The front part of the door, at the bottom, was catching on the surface of the ice.
The last crack she heard was the loudest, echoing across the lake like a thunderclap.
The front end of the car dropped suddenly. Water rushed in, now swirling around her knees. Then it was at her waist. Next it reached her neck. Then everything became very black, and very cold, and then, in a strange way, very calm.
Her last thoughts were of her daughter, and the grandchild she would never see.
‘Melissa,’ she whispered.
And then the car was gone.
Keisha Ceylon stared at the house and thought, sometimes you could tell, just by looking at a place, that there was hurt inside.
She was sitting in the car with the engine running so that she could keep the heater on. Keisha was sure her feelings about the house were not affected by what she already knew. She told herself that if she’d just been walking past, and had merely glanced at this home, she’d have picked up something.
Despair. Concern. Fear.
All the same, there wasn’t anything to mark this house out from any other on the street. The only difference was that the inch of snow that had fallen overnight had not been cleared from the drive, nor from the path up to the front door. In addition, the curtains were drawn and the blinds shut.
Keisha thought about what the man who lived in the house must be feeling. How was he dealing with it? Was he at the point where he would be desperate enough to accept, and pay, for the very special service she could provide?
She believed her timing was about right. This was always the tricky part – knowing when to make a move. You couldn’t act too quickly, but you didn’t want to leave it too late, either. If you waited too long, the police might actually find a body. If that happened, no upset relative was going to care what kind of visions Keisha Ceylon might be having that would lead them to the body. A fat lot of good her visions would do then.
You had to get hold of these people while they still had hope. As long as they had hope, they were willing to try anything and throw their money at anything. This was even more true when all the usual methods – door-to-door questions, sniffer dogs, patrols from the air, searches of the local area – hadn’t found anything.
That’s when the relatives were open to something a bit out of the ordinary. They might warm to a nice lady who showed up on their doorstep and said, ‘I have a gift, and I want to share it with you.’
For a price, of course.
The other important thing about timing was the competition. If Keisha didn’t move fast enough, if she didn’t get to the family soon, she ran the risk of getting beaten by Winona Simpson.
Winona Simpson had been doing this for nearly as long as Keisha – the whole ‘I have a vision’ thing. The difference was that Winona really
. The woman was actually convinced she’d been blessed with some special power – an ability to see things that no one else could see. It drove Keisha nuts. What’s more, because Winona really believed it was her mission to help people in their time of need, she always charged less than Keisha for her work.
‘I’m not in this to make money,’ she’d once told Keisha. It was when they’d both had their sights set on a couple whose two-year-old daughter had wandered away and was believed to have drowned in a creek a year and a half ago. ‘I want to help these people. All I ask is that they cover my expenses, which are minimal.’
‘You must be joking,’ Keisha’d told her.
Keisha had lost out that time, because Winona had already spoken to the parents. She told them where she believed the child was. However, before they could get to the location, a father and son playing with a radio-controlled boat found the child’s body lodged under a bridge. It was exactly where Winona had said it would be.
Keisha wondered how the hell she did it. She didn’t want to believe that Winona really had the gift, but some things were very hard to explain. Keisha was pretty sure Winona had not beaten her this time around.
The missing woman’s name was Eleanor Garfield. She was, according to the news reports, white, forty-one years old and five foot three. She weighed about a hundred and fifty pounds and had short black hair and brown eyes.
Everyone called her Ellie.
She was last seen, according to her husband Wendell, on Thursday evening, at about seven o’clock. She got in her car, a silver Nissan, with the intention of going to the grocery store to pick up the things they needed for the week. Ellie Garfield had a job in the offices of the local board of education, and she didn’t like to leave all her chores to the weekend. She wanted Saturday and Sunday to be without such jobs. To her way of thinking, the weekend actually began on Friday night.
So Thursday night was for running errands.
That way, come Friday, she could have a long soak in a hot bath. After that, she’d slip into her pyjamas and pink bathrobe and park herself in front of the television. It was mostly for background noise, because she rarely had her eyes on it. Her main focus was her knitting.
Knitting had always been a hobby for her, although she hadn’t shown much interest in it over the last few years. According to a newspaper reporter who had tried to capture the essence of this missing woman, Ellie had gone back to it when she learned she was going to become a grandmother. She had been making baby booties and socks and a couple of sweaters. ‘I’m knitting away as if my life depended on it,’ she’d told one of her friends.
But this particular week, Ellie Garfield did not make it to Friday night.
Nor did she, by all accounts, make it to the store on Thursday. None of the grocery store staff, who knew Ellie Garfield by sight, if not by name, recalled seeing her. There was no record that her credit card, which she preferred to using cash, had been used that evening. Her card had not been used since. Her car was not picked up on the closed-circuit cameras that kept watch over the grocery store car park.
Keisha had read the news stories on the woman’s disappearance and had seen reports on television. It looked to her as if the police didn’t know what to make of it. Had Ellie met with foul play? Did she begin by intending to go to the grocery store and decide instead to just keep on driving? Had she wanted to leave her old life behind and start a new one?
That seemed unlikely, especially as she was about to have her first grandchild. What woman disappears on the eve of something like that?
Police floated the theory that she was the victim of a car-jacking. There had been three incidents in the last year where a female driver, who had come to a stop at a traffic light, had been pulled from the car. The car-jacker – believed to be the same man in all three cases – had then driven off in the car. The women had been shaken up, but not seriously hurt.
Maybe Ellie Garfield had run into the same man but, this time, things had become violent.
On Saturday, Wendell Garfield went before the television cameras, his pregnant daughter at his side. The girl was crying too much to say anything, but Wendell held back his tears long enough to make his plea.
‘I just want to say, honey, if you’re watching, please, please come home. We love you and we miss you and we just want you back. And … and, if something has happened to … if someone has done something to you, then I make this appeal to whoever has done this … I’m asking you, please let us know what’s happened to Ellie. Please let us know where she is, that she’s OK … Just tell us something … I … I …’
At that point he turned away from the camera, overcome.
Keisha almost shed a tear herself. It was time to make her move. She was willing to bet her Tarot cards and Ouija board that Winona was watching this, thinking the same thing.
So that evening, Keisha took a drive past the Garfield home, which was set back from the street in a heavily wooded neighbourhood. She got the lay of the land, as it were. She wanted to see whether the place was surrounded with police cars, marked or unmarked. Was Winona’s car, a Toyota Prius, on the street? Keisha saw what she believed was one unmarked police car, but that was it.
She decided to make her move on Sunday morning, first thing.
If you did this enough, it got pretty easy. It was the people themselves who fed you the vision. You started off vaguely, with something like, ‘I see a house … a white house with a fence out front …’
And then they’d say, ‘A white house? Wait, wait, didn’t Aunt Gwen live in a white house?’
Someone else would say, ‘That’s right, she did!’
Then, picking up the past tense, you said, ‘And this Aunt Gwen, I’m sensing … I’m sensing she’s passed on.’
And they said, ‘Oh my God, that’s right, she has!’
The key was to listen and have them give you the clues. If you gave them something to latch on to, then you would be fine.
It wouldn’t be any different with Wendell Garfield.
However, not everyone was convinced. There had been one woman, a few years ago. Her parents and brother had disappeared one night twenty-five years earlier when she was only fourteen. Cynthia, that was her name. You’d have thought that if there was
who’d be willing to take a leap of faith with someone like Keisha, it would have been this woman. They even got as far as the TV studio, where they were going to film Keisha outlining her vision for Cynthia. The moment she raised the issue of being paid, everything came to a standstill. It was the husband, the teacher, who protested. As soon as Keisha wanted to be paid for her services, he started saying that she was some kind of con artist or something.
Wendell Garfield was different. She had a good feeling about him from the TV appearance.
Keisha was up early on Sunday. She’d spent time the night before choosing the right outfit. It must be nothing too flashy, but you needed something quirky somewhere. People thought that, if you could talk to the dead, see into unseen dimensions, you had to be a little off your rocker, right? It was
. So she wore earrings that looked like tiny green parrots.
She got into her Toyota and used the windscreen wipers to clear the dusting of snow from the previous night. When she got to the Garfield house, she was relieved to see no police cars out front. It was always better if you could do this without the cops. They’d probably offer the opinion that you might as well set your cash on fire as hand it over to some pretend psychic.
Keisha sat in the car a moment, getting her head in the right space.
She was ready.
It was time to go in and explain to the frantic husband that she could help him in his hour of need. She could be his
to help determine what had happened to his wife Ellie.
something. She’d had a
. It very possibly held the answer to why his wife of twenty-one years had been missing for three nights now.
It was a vision that she would be happy to share with him.
For the right price.
Keisha Ceylon took a deep breath, took one last look at her lipstick in the rear-view mirror, and opened the car door.
It was time for the show to begin