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Authors: Tanya Landman

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BOOK: Mondays are Murder
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We would have carried on talking but at that moment the stairs creaked. Someone was coming! From the heaviness of the tread, I guessed it was an adult rather than a kid and for a second I was gripped by a paralysing, brain-numbing fear. Then the adrenalin kicked in.

Hastily we stuffed the newspaper clippings in the scrapbook, put it back on the shelf and switched off the desk lamp.

“Hide!” I whispered.


There was nowhere to go. The desk was nothing more than a table. There wasn’t even an armchair in the room. The only place we could hide was behind the curtains but they were too thin to conceal us properly – we made massive, conspicuous bulges in the fabric, and our feet stuck out at the bottom.

The footfalls stopped outside the office door. The handle moved slightly as a hand touched it.

“We’re dead meat!” I gasped.

But whoever was sneaking around in the middle of the night wasn’t interested in the office. They had merely paused there for a second, resting their weight on the handle: drawing breath, perhaps, or steeling themselves for something.

After several agonising moments, the soft tread of feet on tiles started again, moving in the direction of the kitchen.

“We need to get back upstairs,” I said.

Wordlessly, Graham nodded.

We tiptoed, groping our way across the dark office. Holding our breath, we eased the door open and crept towards the stairs.

We had to go right past the kitchen. Terrified, we saw that Mike was in there, his back to us. The freezer door was wide open and the cold air wreathed about him in misty tendrils. The ice-pop corpse of Isabella was laid on the floor, still wrapped in the duvet. Mike’s face was calm as he stroked her hair and said, “It’s over now, my sweet. That’s what you wanted, isn’t it? No more guilt, no more pain. You’re at peace now, Isabella. Rest quietly. Sleep for ever.”

Mad with grief? Or just plain mad?

Graham and I looked at each other in horror. The icy air from the freezer seemed to drift out into the hall and wrap itself around us when we heard those words. Chilled with fear, we crept noiselessly up the stairs. We parted silently at the top, each of us heading for our own room. But I doubted if either of us would sleep much that night.

For hours thoughts circled inside my head. Mike was the murderer. But how? It wasn’t possible. Nobody could have killed Isabella. Nobody could have shut Donald in the freezer. Nobody could have cut that rope.

Nothing made sense. It was too strange. Supernatural. Spooky. Thoughts chased each other round and round, but I couldn’t pin down any of them. Eventually I fell into an uneasy sleep, and dreamt about jungles, glaciers and snow-capped mountains.

When I woke up the next morning my head was aching and my eyes felt like they’d been rubbed with hot sand. Blearily I climbed out of bed, grabbed my wash bag and made for the shower.

I stood in the stream of hot water, breathing in the jungle-like steam. Jungles, I thought… Steve. My mind ran through the names of the dead like a teacher calling out the register. Richard Robertson, Steve Harris, Bruce Dundee, Donald Shaw, Isabella Rackenford. Had Mike really killed them all? Was he totally deranged? Because it had to be him, didn’t it?

Or could someone else be responsible for everything – someone we hadn’t really talked about last night?

Cathy. She wasn’t on that trip to South America. There hadn’t been anything to link her with the others. So where
she come from? Why had she ended up working here on Murrag?

I got out of the shower and dried myself. Cathy had disliked Isabella, I was sure of it – I’d seen the sideways glances she had sent off like poisoned darts at Mike’s wife. I was also sure that Cathy liked Mike. But suppose I was wrong? I mean, I’d thought Mike was perfectly sane until I saw him in the kitchen with Isabella’s body and then he’d seemed completely demented. Appearances could be misleading. Suppose all those looks Cathy gave Mike weren’t loving glances, but something more sinister? Perhaps she’d disguised her real feelings towards him…

Cathy’s surname was Price. But could she be related to Richard Robertson and be seeking revenge for his death? If she was his half-sister or his cousin they wouldn’t necessarily have the same surname.

Throwing my clothes on quickly, I ran to Graham’s bedroom. I badly wanted to talk to him. I opened the door and there was Jake, still asleep and sucking his thumb. Graham was on the top bunk, dozing beneath his duvet.

“Do you think Cathy might be related to Richard Robertson?” I demanded, prodding him awake.

“Erm…” mumbled Graham, rubbing sleep from his eyes. “Maybe…”

My mind was rushing ahead. I didn’t know how Cathy could have managed it but… “She was there on the cliffs that first day,” I said. “She could have done something with the ropes even if none of us saw it. Swapped them over, maybe, while no one was looking? Yes – that must be it. And then Bruce died by mistake. She must have been furious! So that’s the reason for the looks at Mike – she’s planning another accident for him!”

“But,” objected Graham, “she took us riding the day Donald died.”

“Yes. But she went back to fetch her gloves. She was the last person to see him alive…” I trailed off. I’d seen Donald myself when we’d ridden away. I shut my eyes, recalling his silhouette at the window. Realization hit me in a sudden, blinding flash. “That’s it!” I squealed. “Suppose it wasn’t Donald?”

“In the freezer? But we saw him.”

“No! At the window. I saw an outline, that’s all – the light was behind him. Someone was there that I
was Donald, but I couldn’t see his face. He was standing still. He might have been a cardboard cut-out for all I know. It could have been a trick, don’t you see? Cathy could have locked him in the freezer and put the cut-out up. And then when we got back she went straight off to the loo. She could have got rid of it then and none of us would be any the wiser.”

“And Isabella? How do you explain that?”

“I don’t know. But Cathy was being fantastically cheerful on the mountain, wasn’t she? It drove Isabella nuts – that’s why she went on ahead of us. I reckon Cathy did it deliberately to wind her up. Maybe Isabella had become so gloomy and doomy that Cathy didn’t need to kill her at all. She probably only had to leave the champagne out on the bedside table before we left the house. Isabella would have realized and drunk it to save the murderer the bother.”

“There’s no proof,” said Graham uncertainly.

“No,” I agreed. “But I’ve got a monster hunch that I’m right. I’ve got to tell Mike! Now, before Cathy adds him to her list of victims.”

Leaving Graham in bed, I jumped down the stairs three at a time.

I arrived in the kitchen breathless, still flushed from the shower, with my hair dripping wet. And there, sharpening a knife with immense and scary enthusiasm, was Cathy.


skidded to a halt, hitting my hip on the table with a loud thump.

“Ouch! That must have hurt,” said Cathy. “You’re up early, Poppy. Why are you rushing about in such a hurry?”

“No particular reason.” I forced myself to sound calm. “I was just wondering… Where’s Mike?”

Cathy’s eyes narrowed. “Mike?” she said, and her voice had a funny edge to it. “He’s down in the woodshed chopping logs for the fire. We’ll be needing them if the storm keeps up like this.”

I had a vision of an axe embedded in Mike’s head in another so-called accident.

“He’ll be back in an hour or two,” Cathy continued. “Of course, we were supposed to be doing survival skills today, but with Bruce’s accident…” She sighed, then attempted a bright smile. It was so forced it looked more like a lunatic’s grimace. “I thought I’d take you all for a ride, instead. Are you ready for breakfast?”

“Oh yes,” I said. “I’ll call the others shall I?” Without waiting for an answer, I turned and fled up the stairs, bumping headlong into Graham as he came out of his room.

“Graham!” I grabbed him by the shoulders. “Keep an eye on Cathy! Make sure she doesn’t leave the building.”


“I don’t know! Just keep asking for more toast or something. Whatever happens, make sure she stays indoors.”

“OK,” said Graham. “Where are you going?”

“The woodshed. I’ve got to find Mike!” I stopped. Turned. Looked at Graham. “Where
the woodshed?”

“It’s the stone building at the bottom of the hill,” he replied. “But chopping logs is very dangerous, you know. It can cause all kinds of injuries—”

“See you later!” I didn’t even stop to put my coat on. I was off, wet hair flapping across my face, dashing out in my slippers into the wind and rain. I vaguely remembered the woodshed: we’d passed it when we’d gone for that ride along the valley. The lane zigzagged in hairpin bends down to it, covering twice as much distance as was necessary. If I ran along the cliffs a little way, I should be able to find a more direct route – I had to get there as quickly as possible.

I began running, pacing myself so I wouldn’t get a stitch or sprain an ankle on the uneven ground. It wasn’t long before I came to the U-shaped cleft in the rocks where Bruce had fallen to his death. I paused for a moment to catch my breath. If I turned inland from here, I should be able to scramble down the hill and get to Mike.

The hideous slurping of the hungry sea sent a chill through my veins. It was like a great monster that had swallowed Bruce down. Just like Iain – the man in Bruce’s story – both of them were lost for ever.

I started running again, and thoughts banged in my head with each pounding footstep.

A drowned man … a woman who betrayed him … a best friend … cursing their names … never buried … never found … no body ever plucked from the waves.

No body … nobody…

I felt a thought tickling the back of my mind and had the unnerving sensation that something important was dangling there, just out of reach. If I’d had more time, I would have sat down and worked it out but right then finding Mike seemed like the most urgent thing.

I jogged a little way inland and saw, to my relief, that I was right – there, just a few hundred metres below me, was the woodshed. The trouble was that the ground between here and there was covered in gorse and bracken and densely growing heather. It would take ages to push my way through it. Maybe I could find some sort of track? I scanned the area quickly and noticed a break in the scrub – a faint path – as if someone had made their way down ahead of me.

With my heart in my throat, I began to follow it. But I hadn’t gone more than a few metres when something caught my eye.

A large slab of rock was jutting out of the slope, giving shelter from the elements, and underneath it was a long, dry hollow. It was the size of a single bed. Again, I had the tickling sensation that I was missing something important.

I walked towards the rock and saw that the heather beneath it was flattened, as if someone had slept there. To one side was a cut square of grass, as neatly edged as a piece of turf. I peeled it back. Underneath, the earth was blackened and there was a strong smell of ash. A fire had burned there not long ago.

In a blinding flash I realized that the murders had absolutely nothing to do with Cathy! I’d been completely wrong about her.

We’d thought we were alone on Murrag. It had never occurred to me – or any of us – that someone could survive outdoors in the middle of a force-ten gale. But here was solid proof that another person was living on the island. A stranger. No wonder everything had seemed so impossible! Why hadn’t I thought of it before?

I was so busy telling myself off for my stupidity that I didn’t hear the stealthy gliding tread of an avenging spirit coming up behind me. It was only when a spectral voice uttered my name that I turned.

And came face to face with a ghost.

death sentence

honestly thought I was going to faint. I went dizzy. My mouth was dry as sandpaper. My legs could hardly hold me up.

It was Bruce Dundee.

Back from the dead. His scarred face dark with fury.

“But you’re dead!” My voice was reduced to a tiny, pathetic croak. “I saw you! There was blood in the water. You were unconscious. You got washed away.”

“Yes, I did. I’m a ghost. You believe in ghosts, don’t you?” Weirdly, all trace of his Australian accent had vanished.

Clutching every scrap of common sense tightly with both hands, I struggled to work out what I was looking at. I fought against the sick feeling that rose in my throat.

Ghosts don’t need to make campfires, I told myself sternly. They don’t need dry places to sleep. This is not a ghost. It isn’t. I stared hard at Bruce Dundee. He looked solid enough.

“OK … so you didn’t die,” I said. “You survived that fall. But if you didn’t die why didn’t you come back to the centre? We were all so upset! Or were you frightened? Was it Mike who cut the rope? Did he try to kill you?”

Bruce Dundee threw back his head and laughed. I felt about a millimetre tall.

Suddenly it was so obvious! My hands went to my head and I dug my fingers into my scalp. How could I have been so thick?

“Hang on…” I glared at him because I knew exactly what had happened. “You did it!” I accused him. “You cut the rope yourself! No wonder we couldn’t figure it out.”

Bruce didn’t answer. Just stood staring at me.

“There aren’t any currents around here, are there?” I demanded. “Not ones that suck people down to the depths so their bodies can’t be found. You made that story up so we’d think you were dead. But all that blood… What was that? Tomato sauce?”

“Stage blood. Plenty of it. It had to be convincing, you see.” His voice was crisp. Clipped. English.

“You knew there was a storm on the way. You knew the coastguard couldn’t come so what did you do? Let yourself get washed away and then cling to a rock around the corner? Climb back up once we’d all gone? You’re a survival skills expert, so living outdoors would be no trouble at all. I should have worked that out ages ago. And since then you’ve been hiding out here, picking people off one by one…” I stared at his wrecked face, trying to read his expression. “Why are you doing this? Are you Richard’s cousin? Or his friend?”

BOOK: Mondays are Murder
10.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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