Authors: Tim O'Rourke
From the Chicken House
Tim O’Rourke is a real police officer – so when he writes about detectives and crime, you know he knows . . . so be very careful of how you decide ‘who did it’ in this amazing mystery with the strangest twist. Can you trust what you hear and see? Who is telling the truth about flashes, premonitions and texts from the dead? Or is it all just to put you off the scent? I’m not telling.
OK, Tim – fair cop – I have an alibi, honest . . .
In loving memory of my friends Patrick Taylor and Richard Bevan who flashed so brightly. I just wish you had done so for longer. I miss you both with all my heart
Charley – Wednesday: 21:55 Hrs.
hat’s the last time he shows his face around here,’ my father bellowed, storming down the hall and back into the kitchen.
‘You can’t stop me from seeing him.’
‘I can do what I want,’ he seethed. ‘I’m your father and you’ll do as I say.’
‘But I like him, Dad.’
‘Don’t make me laugh,’ he snapped. ‘You’re seventeen for crying out loud. What do you know about anything?’
‘I know enough to know that Tom believes in me,’ I snapped back.
‘He’s using you Charley, can’t you see that?’
‘So you say!’
‘Why can’t you like boys your own age? Tom’s too old for you,’
‘You are kidding me?’ I spat. ‘Have you any idea what most boys my age are like? All they’re interested in is a quick fumble!’
‘Not all boys are like that,’ he grunted.
‘Oh no?’ I said. ‘Why don’t you go and take a good look around the shopping centre on a Friday night. You’ll see them all there clutching their packets of ten Marlboro Lights and bottles of Smirnoff Ice. All they want to do is get pissed and screw the nearest thing in a skirt.’
‘Don’t you dare use that language in front of me!’ he shouted. ‘I’m your father. Show some respect.’
‘Well it’s true,’ I shouted back, my head was hurting so much I was beginning to feel sick. ‘Tom’s not like that. He’s treats me nice.’
‘Jesus,’ my father sighed with disbelief. ‘You really are the softest touch walking the face of God’s Earth. Dragging you up to the place where some girl was killed is treating you nice, is it?’
‘I was just trying to help. Don’t you care that there’s a killer out there?’
‘It’s not our problem. It’s nothing to do with us.’
‘Don’t you see, Dad? This thing that I can do – these flashes – doesn’t have to be a curse.’ I tried to reason with him. ‘I might actually be able to help people.’
‘The only people you’ll be helping will be those two coppers, to reach the next rank up,’ he said. ‘Can’t
‘I think Mum has something to do with the stuff I see.’
He looked at me agog. ‘What are you talking about?’
‘Mum died on the railway lines, right?’
‘Well, don’t you think it’s more than just a mere coincidence that my flashes have grown stronger – become more vivid – since other girls started to die on the tracks,’ I breathed. ‘Maybe Mum is trying to tell me something.’
‘My God, Charley,’ Dad cried. ‘I don’t believe I’m hearing this.’
‘Maybe the man that is killing these girls had something to do with Mum’s death,’ I suggested.
‘Charley, your mum suffered from depression. She was ill. She took her own life – she wasn’t murdered,’ he said.
‘Well, connection or not, I’m going to find this man,’ I insisted. ‘I’m going to stop him killing any more girls and find out if he is connected to Mum’s death.’
Dad took a deep breath and shook his head. ‘Charley, I give up. I can’t deal with this right now. We’ll talk about this again when we’ve both had a chance to calm down.’
‘I’m not going to change my mind,’ I said, placing my hands on my hips and staring at him.
Pouncing forward, my dad gripped me by the wrist and started to yank me out of the kitchen.
‘What are you doing?’ I yelled.
‘Saving you from danger,’ he said, pulling me up the stairs.
‘Let go of me!’ I screamed. I gripped the banister and dug my heels into the carpet. ‘I’m not in any danger! You don’t even believe there’s a killer.’
‘You’re right,’ he heaved, prising off my fingers and pulling me further up the stairs. ‘But if I’m wrong I won’t forgive myself if I don’t protect you from yourself and those coppers.’
‘Please, Dad,’ I yelled, feeling scared. ‘I’m not a child any more.’
‘Then stop bloody behaving like one.’ He dragged me towards my bedroom door, my fingernails clawing at the wallpaper. He pushed into my bedroom and threw me onto my bed.
‘It’s not like you can lock me in my room like I’m some kind of kid,’ I hissed, leaping towards the door.
‘It’s a lot like that,’ he said. He pulled the key from the lock on my side of the door, slammed it and locked it from the other side.
I banged my fists against the door. ‘Let me out! Let me out!’
‘I’m not having you end up like your mother, Charley!’ he panted from the other side of the door, catching his breath.
‘What are you talking about?’ I demanded, hammering my fists so hard my hands began to hurt.
‘I’m just trying to help you,’ he said. ‘I love you. I’ve got to go out to work, but I can’t leave you alone knowing you might go back up to those tracks. I just can’t take that risk.’
I heard the sound of his footfalls as he headed back downstairs. The front door opened, and then slammed shut behind him.
I stood in my bedroom, listening to the sound of his car drive away. I started to cry. I couldn’t believe what my father had done. He had made me feel childish and stupid, like a little girl again. When was he going to realise I wasn’t a little girl any more? When was he going to realise he couldn’t keep on trying to protect me like he had failed to protect my mother?
Sitting down on the edge of my bed, I wondered if that was what my father’s irrational behaviour had really been about. Did he wish he’d locked my mother away the day he’d left for work only to come home and find that she had gone – that she had taken her own life?
My breath still stank of something close to road kill. Feeling as if I needed to cleanse myself somehow, I pulled some fresh clothes from my wardrobe and put them on.
My brain felt like it had been wrung out by a pair of invisible hands. It was oozing with everything that had happened in the last hour or so. I knew I could help people. I believed that now. If I didn’t use my flashes in a positive way then what was the point of them? They just became a curse. If only I could find out the identity of this man, lead Tom and his inspector to him. If I could do that, and Tom still hung around, Dad would be able to see Tom wasn’t just using me and that I wasn’t a danger to myself or to anyone else. He would see how I could use the flashes to help others. Despite what Dad thought, I was almost certain the flashes were connected to the death of my mum. If this man was identified and a connection found, then perhaps my dad’s guilt would be lessened.
Sitting on the edge of my bed, I tried to brush the smell of decay from my hair. I scraped it into a ponytail then picked up my tainted clothes. My jeans were tangled around my T-shirt, and as I pulled them apart, my phone fell onto the floor. The screen started to glow as my Coldplay ringtone started to play. The song was
and the words were about lights guiding someone home so that they could be fixed.
Slowly reaching down, I picked up my phone. Would Kerry be able to guide me – would she be able to fix me?
‘Hello?’ I whispered.
All I could hear was the sound of fingernails clawing against wood.
I screwed my eyes shut. It almost sounded like someone trying to climb out of their coffin.
‘Charley?’ Kerry’s voice startled me.
‘Yes,’ I gasped. The overpowering smell of rotting flesh and decay was back again, washing over me.
‘Want to see the lights?’ Kerry asked, her voice sounding as though she had a mouthful of mud and grit.
‘Yes,’ I whispered, fighting the urge to throw up. Hot bile gushed into my throat.
‘Come to the house,’ she breathed.
The line went dead.
Tom – Wednesday: 22:50 Hrs.
ois was in the office, a steaming mug of coffee in front of her. She was busy typing at her computer.
‘Okay?’ I said, taking off my jacket and sitting at my desk.
‘Still snowing is it?’ she asked, smiling.
‘Yeah, how did you guess?’
‘You’re covered,’ she laughed. ‘Either that or you’re going prematurely grey.’
I smiled back at her, and ran my fingers through my hair. ‘Busy?’ I asked.
‘Just typing up some of Kerry Underwood’s friends’ statements,’ she said, going back to her work.
‘Where’s Jackson?’ I asked her.
‘Out, chasing up CCTV,’ she said, without looking up.
‘What, at this time of night?’
‘Jason Lane says he stopped to fill up his car at that twenty-four-hour petrol station, out on Gospel Road,’ she explained. ‘Reckons it was around about the same time the train driver saw Kerry lying on the tracks. If he’s on CCTV then Lane’s in the clear. The railway lines are about five miles from that petrol station.’
‘Jackson still reckons Lane’s involved then?’ I asked her.
‘I guess,’ she said, her keyboard clacking as she continued to type. ‘Anyway, where did you get to last night? You shot off pretty quick.’
‘Had gut ache,’ I lied. ‘Must have been something I ate.’
‘Well next time just let me know, okay?’ she said, peering over the top of the computer screen. ‘I am your skipper.’
‘Sorry,’ I said. ‘I did tell the Governor.’
‘He must have forgotten to mention it,’ she said.
Seeing that her head was firmly buried in her work, I slowly got up from my desk and crossed the office. As casually as possible, I lingered by Jackson’s desk. I glanced back at Lois. Her back was to me. Taking my chance, I quickly thumbed through the pile of paperwork in Jackson’s tray.
‘Looking for something?’ Lois asked.
‘I don’t suppose you know if that printout from Kerry’s phone has turned up yet?’
‘Haven’t seen it,’ she said.
‘Has Jackson mentioned it?’
‘Not that I remember,’ she said, her smile fading. ‘Tom, are you okay?’
‘I’m fine,’ I smiled, stepping away from Jackson’s desk. ‘Why do you ask?’
‘It’s just that you seem on edge, or something.’
I patted my stomach, feeling bad about lying to her. ‘Like I said, gut ache.’
‘Okay, if you’re sure that’s all that’s wrong,’ she said.
‘I’m sure,’ I breathed and left the office.
I made my way to the small briefing room. It was empty, just as
I hoped it would be. A long table ran the length of the room. Attached to the far wall was a board hung with keys to the station vehicles and their corresponding logbooks. The station had five marked vehicles, and two unmarked allocated to CID. The keys to one of these vehicles were missing. I checked the logbook and could see it had been signed out at 22:13 by DC Jackson. That was okay, it was black. Not the vehicle I needed to check. The second unmarked vehicle was blue, so no point in checking the log book for that one.
Only two sets of keys remained, the other marked vehicles were obviously out patrolling the streets of Marsh Bay. But all of the log-books were present. I took the first one down and opened it. I scanned the pages to see who had booked the vehicle out three days ago, Sunday night. Rogers from ‘D’ relief had used it. Replacing the book, I picked up another and opened it. PC Little had signed for that one on Sunday night. I took hold of the third. There, next to Sunday’s date was Jackson’s signature, timed at 22:02. The vehicle had been signed out two minutes after his shift had started.
Where had he gone in such a hurry? I wondered.
I replaced the logbook and looked for the keys. They were missing. The vehicle was out, so I wouldn’t be able to check it for scratches until it was returned. Taking down the logbook again, I checked to see who had logged that particular vehicle out on the Monday morning. Perhaps they had noticed some scratches on the paint work. It had been signed out by PC Jones at 07:13 at the start of her early turn.
I knew PC Sarah Jones, from training school. She was a good copper and if anyone would have noticed any damage to the police car, it would have been her. I took my mobile phone from my pocket, scanned my contact list and dialled Sarah’s number. All I got was an unobtainable number tone.
‘Bloody thing,’ I hissed, ending the call.
There was a landline on the desk, so I dialled her number and got a connection straight away.
‘Sarah speaking,’ she said.
‘Hey, Sarah, it’s Tom Henson from work.’
‘Hi Tom. Don’t tell me, all rest days have been cancelled for tomorrow.’
‘No, it’s nothing like that,’ I laughed.
‘Thank God,’ she sighed. ‘I’ve got something on tomorrow I can’t cancel. So why the call? It’s late you know.’
‘Sorry to bug you. You know you booked out vehicle Romeo Two-One, on Monday morning?’
‘Yes, what have I done? Pranged it or something?’
‘No, not you, but I think someone did. I don’t suppose you noticed any scratches on the paintwork, near the back of the car when you booked it out?’
‘Not that I remember,’ she said. ‘But hang on, there was something.’
‘What?’ I asked, my heart leaping into my throat.
‘It’s probably nothing.’
‘Go on,’ I said, gripping the phone so tightly I heard my knuckles crack.
‘Keep this between you and me, okay, because I don’t want to get him into any trouble, or anything,’ she said.
‘Get who into any trouble?’
‘You know, that tall guy from CID, the one who loves himself – Jackson,’ she said. ‘I could see from the logbook that he was the last one to use the vehicle. Well, since that guy got divorced he thinks he’s a real ladies man, he’s made a pass at me once or twice . . .’
‘What was strange about the vehicle?’
‘Well, he’d obviously had a woman in the car with him,’ she said, and my heart began to speed up.
‘What makes you say that?’ I asked, trying to be cool about it.
‘The car stank of Chloe perfume,’ she said. ‘I recognised it straight away, because I have a bottle.’
‘Are you sure?’ I asked.
‘Positive. As I said, the car stank.’
‘Thanks, Sarah,’ I said.
‘Thanks for what?’ she asked.
‘It doesn’t matter,’ I said, and hung up the phone.