Authors: Graham Masterton
Table of Contents
The Sissy Sawyer Series
TOUCHY AND FEELY
THE PAINTED MAN
THE RED HOTEL
The Jim Rook Series
GARDEN OF EVIL
FESTIVAL OF FEAR
THE NINTH NIGHTMARE
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First published in Great Britain and the USA 2014 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
19 Cedar Road, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM2 5DA.
eBook edition first published in 2014 by Severn House Digital
an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited
Copyright Â© 2014 by Graham Masterton.
The right of Graham Masterton to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Masterton, Graham author.
1. DroughtsâFiction. 2. Environmental disastersâ
Fiction. 3. Social workersâCaliforniaâFiction.
4. Suspense fiction.
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8399-5 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-519-3 (trade paper)
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-548-2 (ePub)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland
âWhen the well is dry, we know the worth of water.'
Benjamin Franklin (1706â1790),
Poor Richard's Almanac
artin heard the screaming inside the house as soon as he pulled into the curb. He picked up his bulging folder of case notes and swung his legs out of his old bronze Eldorado convertible, but as he did so the frosted glass window in the front door cracked, sharp as a pistol shot. He could see that a woman in a dark red dress had been violently pushed against it from inside the hallway.
!' a man's hoarse voice was shouting. â
Two weeks I'm away and what do you do
You can't wait for me two weeks
The woman was thrown against the front door a second time, even harder, so that a large triangular shard of glass crashed out on to the porch. Martin dropped his folder back on to the passenger seat and strode briskly up the concrete path.
You piece of shit
I kill you
Martin went up to the door, his shoes crunching on broken glass. Through the broken window he could see a woman sitting on the doormat with her back to him, sobbing, her black hair tangled into snakes. An unshaven Hispanic man in a filthy pink T-shirt was standing in front of her with both fists clenched, cross-eyed with rage.
!' Martin shouted at him. âBack off, Jesus, before you do something you totally regret! Leave her be!'
The man took no notice of him. He seized the woman's dress and heaved her up on to her feet, and then he punched her in the face, twice. Martin heard the cartilage in her nose snap, and blood sprayed in loops and squiggles all the way up the wall.
Jesus, leave her be
But Jesus kept hold of the woman's dress and swung her from side to side. She was semi-concussed and her arms were dangling as if she were dancing a loose-limbed salsa.
âYou go screw yourself !' he retorted. âThis is my business, nothing to do with social service! Go on, go screw yourself !
Vete a la verga
Martin took one step back, and then he kicked the door so hard that the crossbar splintered. He kicked it again and this time the lock burst and it swung wide open, juddering on its hinges. Jesus let go of the woman so that she tumbled sideways on to the carpet. He retreated toward the kitchen, holding up both hands to fend Martin off.
âDon't you touch me! I warn you! Don't you fucking touch me! You â you work for the social service â you can't touch me! It's the law!'
Without any hesitation, Martin sidestepped around the woman and went after him. Jesus backed into the kitchen and frantically tried to close the door in Martin's face, but he was too late. Martin barged into the door with his shoulder and Jesus lost his balance and staggered back against a Formica-topped table crowded with smeary plates and empty Modelo bottles. Plates and bottles clattered on to the floor and smashed.
âDon't you touch me!' Jesus was so frightened now that his voice was more of a high-pitched, strangulated whine, like a dog straining at its leash. âYou touch me, I swear to God, you're going to lose your fucking job! I make sure of that!'
âOh, yes?' said Martin. âAnd how are you going to do that, when you're sitting in the slammer on a charge of assault?'
âDon't you touch me! Don't you touch me!' Jesus gibbered. He backed right up to the kitchen sink but Martin grabbed his wrist, twisted him around and forced both of his arms behind his back, right up between his shoulder blades. Jesus stank of beer and sweat and stale cigarettes, and the hair on his arms was so bristly that it felt like holding a large dog rather than a man. All the same, Martin found that Jesus was surprisingly weak.
âYou can't do this!' Jesus protested. âYou can't do this to me! You work for the county! I know my rights! I have rights!'
âSure you have rights. For starters, you have the right to remain silent, you sadistic scumbag. In fact, I insist on it.'
As if to emphasize his point, he rammed Jesus's arms up even higher between his shoulder blades. Jesus let out a girlish cry of pain.
Martin half-pushed and half-lifted Jesus out of the kitchen and back into the hallway. On the left-hand side there was a grubby cream-painted door with a discolored decal of a red rose stuck on to it. Martin turned his back to the door and kicked it open, and then forced Jesus inside. All of the houses along this side of East Julia Street were identical, and Martin knew that this was the restroom.
âWhat are you doing?' Jesus screamed at him. âWhat are you doing, you fucking pervert?'
The restroom was small and narrow with a pale blue Venetian blind that looked as if it hadn't been dusted since it was first put up. A dried-up pot plant sat on the windowsill, and the mirror above the washbasin was smashed like a kaleidoscope. Around the toilet pedestal, the floor was cluttered with rancid sneakers and a rusty pair of roller skates, and balanced on top of the cistern there was an ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts. The toilet itself was filthy, its bowl streaked in fifty shades of dark brown, its water still amber with stale urine.
âYou can't!' screamed Jesus. âYou can't do this! It's against the law!'
Martin didn't answer him. He forced Jesus to kneel down on the floor in front of the toilet. Then he gripped the back of his neck and pushed his head down into the bowl, as far as it would fit. Martin heard the sides of his skull knocking against the porcelain.
! Holy Mary Mother of God! No!'
Martin yanked down the cistern handle and the toilet flushed. Jesus struggled furiously as water cascaded over his head. Martin kept him kneeling until the flush had finished, and then pulled him up. Jesus spluttered and coughed and blinked, and for the first few seconds he couldn't speak.
âWell?' said Martin. âNot so tough now, are we?'
â you can't fucking do thisâ'
âI can and I will and there's not a goddamned thing you can do about it. You're not even supposed to
in this house, Jesus, you worthless waste of space, and you know it. You're not even supposed to be anywhere near this neighborhood. How do you think little Mario would feel if he saw you hitting his mother like that? You think he'd respect you?'
âThat's my son! How do you think he's going to respect
, his own mother, if she screws around with other men, right in front of him? Of course I hit her. She's a whore. She was asking for it.'
âFrom now on, Jesus, you're going to leave her alone. The court says you have to and I say you have to.'
âWell, screw you,' Jesus spat at him. âShe's my wife and that makes her my property and no court is going to keep me away from her and neither is no
from social services.'
Martin rammed Jesus's head into the toilet bowl again and pulled down the handle. This time, however, the handle clanked down loosely, and no water came out. Martin pulled it again, but the cistern wasn't filling up. He dragged Jesus up again.
âSo what's it to be?' Martin demanded. âAre you going to stay away from Ezzie, or not?'
Jesus spat out water and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and then spat again.
âYes? No?' Martin coaxed him. âIf it's a no, Jesus, I can shove your head down there for a third time, no problem. And more, if necessary. I'm willing to go on shoving your head down there as long as it takes for you to change your mind.'
Jesus looked down into the dirt-encrusted toilet bowl. There was no water in it now. He spat into it, and then he looked back at Martin and shook his head. âOK,' he said. âYou win, you bastard.'
âYou're sure you don't want one more lucky dip?'
Jesus shook his head again. Martin released his grip on the back of his neck, and Jesus stood up, almost losing his balance and tilting against the wall. The first thing he did was go to the washbasin and turn on the faucet, but only a dribble of water came out. He smacked the faucet in frustration.