This week I’m joining in Sample Sunday; a chance to offer readers titbits of books if they’re looking for something fresh and new to devour. Whilst last week I shared Chapter 1 of Inside Evil from my ‘my Writing’ page, this week I’m sharing an excerpt from Chapter 9.
There was a soft humming from the kitchen as Susan made her way down the stairs and turned into the lounge. The table in front of Martha’s conservatory was already set, and there were a selection of warm croissants, jams, fruit and pastries laid out.
“There you are,” Martha smiled as she walked through the kitchen door with a steaming pot of coffee. She placed it on a placemat, removed her apron and beckoned Susan towards the table. “Breakfast?”
“I’m not hungry,” Susan replied as she made her way to a seat which overlooked the frosty morning garden.
“Just have some coffee and a croissant at least, you’ve got to eat. Plus, I’ve gone to so much effort.”
Susan smiled and raised an eyebrow, “Martha, you do this every morning whether you have company or not.”
“True, but it’s good to have a few family traditions kept up. Here,” Martha poured dark coffee into Susan’s cup before handing her the plate of pastries. Susan soon realised that she was actually famished, especially having not eaten anything the night before. After seeing the ghostly figures in the cellar she’d come to Martha’s to seek advice. It had become late, she didn’t care to see her husband’s face and let another row boil over about her increasing distance from him, and so she’d stayed in one of Martha’s guestrooms. And now that she was guzzling coffee and working her way through several pastries, she was hugely thankful for her friend’s care.
“So, these ghostly figures,” Martha began as calmly as if she were asking about how Susan had slept, which had in fact been one of the best sleeps since Vanessa’s death. “There were two?”
Susan nodded and washed a piece of toast and jam down with a sip of coffee. “The second only came towards the end. I couldn’t really see either very well. They weren’t in the cellar, it was as if I were looking through a window to somewhere else.”
“Yet you were able to pick up the diaries off the table and can feel heat and see light from the candles,” Martha mused. “And, the main figure just placed the fallen candle back onto the table and left?”
Susan hesitated, she still hadn’t told Martha about the stone disc, and to reveal that another had been placed on the table would mean she’d need to reveal the item which still rested in her pocket now. Her fingers dug into her cardigan for reassurance, recoiling instantly as they touched the cold round object. She moved her hand to her other pocket and pulled out Vanessa’s pages which were becoming increasingly crumpled and damaged.
“The second figure appeared, grabbed the first’s arm and seemed to indicate that someone was watching them. It looked straight at me for a few seconds and then they both vanished.”
“Well, I’m glad that’s all that happened, Susan. I’ve got a horrible feeling that whatever was staring at you was the same thing that attacked me the night of Vanessa’s death.”
“I think it’s certain,” Susan replied, “Yet we’re still no further along with what’s actually happening.”
“I wouldn’t say that! For starters, Karl confirmed what I’d been thinking all along, and that Vanessa didn’t simply just drop dead.” She looked across to Susan, “I’m sorry I didn’t say anything before, about Karl. I know you’re upset, but truly Susan, I just didn’t think of it until he came through the door. I knew only of the other deaths because Barry had mentioned them to me. I didn’t have the details. I just knew that matters had been handed over to a team outside of Ridgewood. And then, when Barry found James Harrow, I didn’t care much for anything other than what he was going through.”
“It’s OK,” Susan smiled. “I get so caught up in my own mind that I forget that you went through it too. And it doesn’t help that I still don’t know what any of this means.”
She passed Martha the diary pages. Martha took a moment to read through the scrawl again.
“I think it’s pretty safe to say that your Vanessa had the same encounter as you and I have had,” Martha murmured as she studied the text. “Black eyes bore into me. I would say that’s a pretty perfect description.”
“But what does that tell us?”
“Well, it tells us that whatever happened to Barry all those years ago also happened to Vanessa. That we’re not going mad, and that whatever we’ve been seeing is not a figment of our strange imaginations. And, it brings us right back to Roberta Arlington again.”
Martha looked up at Susan with astonishment, “R pulls me aside, R’s there, lurking,” she recited. “It’s obviously her. After the incident at the school I was sure there was something wrong, I felt a panic which I hadn’t felt since Barry.”
Though Susan had somehow managed to completely miss this obvious connection before, she was certain of its truth. As soon as she heard Martha say it aloud, she was also certain of who the developing image on the cellars new stone disc was.
“But how are we supposed to get remotely close to her? You saw what happened. We can’t just go and knock on her door and have a conversation about what the hell she was doing to my daughter.”
“We could talk to Sam, see if he knows anything, has seen anything unusual?”
“Unusual, Martha, all of this is unusual,” Susan said, taking yet another pastry. “But you’re right, Sam’s the obvious link to Roberta. But, how do we get him alone?”
Martha thought on the question momentarily before answering. “Just call him Susan. Say that something happened in the cellar, that you don’t want to talk about it over the phone, and could he pop into the shop.”
“It’s that easy?”
“I don’t think Roberta will want to be anywhere near you right now. Barry shut out his best friend during the last weeks before he vanished. I never found out what happened, but I am starting to realise that there was more to it than a simple argument. If anything was proved by the incident at the school it was that Roberta and you need to stay away from each other. Just tell Sam you don’t want any trouble, and that he has to come alone.”
“It’s worth a try,” Susan replied as she drained the last coffee dregs from her cup.
To find out what happens, and where it all began, find Inside Evil for $2.99 at: