There was a horrible pain in his head. It was unbearable. He felt immediately frightened and alarmed. Something was wrong. His head felt like it had been split in two. He was face down on a grubby floor. He moved his arms up, found his face with his shaking hands, and looked at them. They were bright red, slick with his own blood. His vision was blurring in and out. He felt his stomach lurch horribly and an uncontrollable rush of vomit hurled up his throat, splattering violently across the floor in front of him.
He tried to move. His legs didn’t feel connected to the rest of him. He thought dimly of his phone, but he didn’t know where it was, or how to get it. His head was on fire. He kept it still. His cheek pressed into the floor. He wondered if he was going to die. He wondered where Danny was. His ears trained in on noises close by. Swearing, scuffling, grunting. There was nothing he could do.
She had made herself some pasta for dinner, but had only managed to eat a quarter of it. Every mouthful seeming to stick and lodge in her throat, making her want to gag. It didn’t seem worth it in the end. She pushed the plate aside, covered her face with her hands and gave in to a good cry. What did it matter? She was all alone. No one would know. When she felt better, she got up, scraped the leftover food into the bin, and did the washing up. Her phone rested on the worktop the whole time, ignoring her, blanking her, telling her nothing.
To kill time, Lucy went and had a shower. She got out, and realised she should have had a bath. It was nice and relaxing for the baby, she remembered. That was when she felt it move the most. When she was submerged in the warm water, hands wrapped around her belly, eyes closed. She would feel it awaken inside of her. Start to stretch, and wriggle and jolt. Sometimes it made her laugh out loud. What do you think you are doing in there? She would imagine it turning somersaults, and using its tiny feet to bounce against her womb like a trampoline.
She put on her pyjamas even though it was early. Her phone accompanied her to the bedroom and sat quietly on the bed while she dressed, still refusing to speak to her. She pulled on her dressing gown, tied it around the middle and went to plonk herself down on the sofa with a warm throw, and some rubbish to watch on TV. He’ll be alright, she kept telling herself as she walked to the lounge, phone in hand, no news is good news, he’ll call any minute now to let me know he’s okay.
She was about to drop onto the sofa when she heard the doorbell ring. At once, she froze in uncertainty. The doorbell or the phone ringing were no longer as harmless things. Instead she found herself imagining all the nasty people who could be on the other end of them.
Lucy wandered slowly and quietly down the hallway towards the front door. The bell rang again. Whoever was out there did not have much patience, for some reason. “Who is it?” she called out, something she had never done before.
“Me, Kay!” the voice called back, and then as an afterthought; “Sorry!”
Lucy breathed a sigh of relief and opened the door to her. Danny’s mother bundled quickly in, holding out her mobile phone as if it were on fire. “Are you alright?” Lucy asked her. Kay showed her the phone.
“No, I’m worried about Danny, I can’t get hold of him and he sent me a really weird message when I was at work! I only just saw it, look!”
Lucy took the phone and walked into the kitchen. She put the kettle on, and read the message Kay was so worked up about; hoping to end it all 2nite, don’t worry have friends with me, gonna do the right thing, love u, Danny. It felt like a stab in the heart, and Lucy had to turn away quickly, snatching down mugs from the shelf to make the teas, so that Kay would not see its effect on her.
“I know,” she told her. “Him and Michael came to see me on my lunch break at school.”
“What the hell did they say?” Kay demanded, taking back her phone. “What the hell are they doing Lucy?”
“As far as I know, just going to see Jerry Howard, like Danny has planned for a while now. You know yourself what he wants from him.” Lucy wiped away a pointless tear and turned to face Kay, while the kettle boiled. “I guess that’s what they’ve gone to do.”
“But this message!” Kay cried, holding the phone up again. “It sounds like he’s not coming back! Don’t you think?”
“No, no it doesn’t say that, he doesn’t mean it like that.”
“But this bit, this bit, love you! He never says he loves me Lucy, never.” Kay tossed the phone onto the table as if it enraged her. She pushed her hands into the front pockets of her long woollen coat. Lucy could see that she was angry and scared.
“He’ll be fine,” she nodded at her. “He’s got Anthony and Michael with him. He’s not alone.”
“There’s not a part of you that doesn’t see these messages like those letters he wrote for you lot? Before he came to kill Lee?”
“No!” Lucy cried, offended by the idea. She turned her back to make the tea, and heard Kay pull out a chair and sit down with a sigh. “It’s not the same at all Kay. You’re getting all worked up. Jerry asked to see him, right? He’s gone to do the right thing, to give the money back and apologise I should think.”
“You think so?” Kay asked, her tone pleading. “You really think that?”
“I think that’s what he means by ‘the right thing’, yes.” Lucy placed the two steaming mugs on the table and pulled up the chair opposite. She sat down, and suddenly felt overwhelming tiredness hitting her. She yawned and rubbed at her eyes, and then blinked down at the table, and the two mobile phones lying there desolately. Call, you bastard, call.
“Can I wait with you?” Kay asked her then, picking up her tea. “Until we hear from them? I don’t think I could bear to go back to my empty flat right now.”
“Of course you can,” Lucy smiled at her across the table. “We’ll kill the time together.”
They sat on opposite sides of the table, their hands wrapped around their mugs of tea. Kay frowned and cocked her head to the music coming softly from the lounge.
“What have you got on?”
“Danny lent me some CD’s he picked up from the shop,” Lucy said, with a smile. “You know what he’s like. Insisting that I listen to them!”
“Does he still like Nirvana?” Kay asked, meeting Lucy’s eye. Lucy felt sad looking at her then. She looked her age for a moment, haunted. Her eyes shone with tears yet to fall. “He always used to like Nirvana. That’s what I remember the most. Coming from his room. He had the posters all over his walls. Got his hair to look like the singers, remember?”
“He still likes Nirvana,” Lucy nodded at her warmly, and she could see that this reassured Kay for some reason. Her shoulders relaxed slightly and she drank slowly from her mug of tea. “I think they’ll always be his favourite,” she added.
They both jumped when the doorbell rang again, Lucy spilling half of her tea over the kitchen table. She put a hand to her chest, laughing at herself. Kay glanced anxiously into the hallway. “Are you expecting anyone?”
“Ask who it is again. Just in case.”
Lucy nodded and got up from the table, just as the doorbell rang for the second time. She called out to the door. “Who is it?”
“Caroline Haskell,” came the voice from the other side. “Can I speak to you please?”
Lucy’s breath hitched in her throat. That woman. No, she did not want to speak to that woman. She took a step towards the door, and heard Kay stepping into the hallway behind her. “What the hell does she want?”
“I don’t know,” Lucy said, and opened the door.
Caroline Haskell stood on the doorstep, her hair windswept, and her eyes red. She did not appear to be the well groomed, confident young woman Lucy had seen before. “What do you want?” she asked in confusion. The woman thrust something at her, something heavy swinging inside a carrier bag.
“I need you to have this.”
Lucy took it hesitantly. “What is it?”
“It’s tapes. Tapes I made every time I met with Jerry Howard.”
Lucy’s mouth fell open. She swung to look at Kay, who hovered unsurely behind, eyes dark with worry. She looked back at Caroline Haskell, who now shoved her hands into the pockets of her mac. “I saw Danny earlier,” she said. “He knows the truth about me. He said the only thing I could do now was go to the police with everything I know. But I don’t seem to have the guts for that.” She flicked back her hair and nodded at Lucy. “I thought you probably do though.”
“I don’t understand…”
“I never liked Howard, I never trusted him, and I never believed Danny needed to be punished anymore for killing his stepdad. I just wanted the story. For my own reasons.”
Lucy looked helplessly down at the bag, then back at the woman. “I still don’t…what do you want me to do?”
“Go to the police. I’d go soon if I were you. He said he was going to see Jerry, and believe me, that is not a good idea. It’s all there. Everything you need to nail that man for what he’s done. He even admits to drug dealing on those. They can raid his businesses and his homes. He’ll be finished.” Caroline Haskell shook back her hair and stepped away from the door, looking like she was in a hurry to be gone. Lucy struggled to find something to say to her. She leaned forward out of the door, the carrier bag swinging ominously from one hand.
“Caroline,” she called after her. The woman had gone down the steps, but stopped and looked back. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” she nodded, and then gestured to the bag. “I’d hurry up and do it if I were you.” Then she turned abruptly on her heel, and marched away. Lucy ducked back inside her flat, craving the security of it. She slammed the door and turned to face Kay, who was looking as bewildered as she felt.
“Did you get all that?”
“What the hell shall we do?”
“Get dressed, and get in the car. We’ll take them to the police right now.”