Authors: J.D. Chase
Tags: #PART TWO OF THE PASSION NOIRE SERIES
‘That’s what I remember first. Them coming to take her away and me crying until she came back. Then she’d tell me not to cry, but she’d cry.’
‘So that’s the first thing you remember? You can’t remember how you came to be there?’ Veuve asks. She’s touching and rubbing my leg a lot now.
‘So your mum took you there?’
I shrug. ‘I suppose. I don’t remember being there before my mum.’
‘Did she ever say how she got there?’
‘A bad man took her from her school. One of the men who are with Ross. I don’t know which one.’
Veuve looks to Jones who thinks about something, maybe what I’ve said, I don’t know. But then he nods. He looks sad. His mouth droops. I feel sad. I don’t like this anymore but I want them to find my sister.
‘Do you know anything about the school? The name or the place or how old she was? Anything?’
‘That’s easy. London.’ I remember her telling me that when she used to sing a song about the streets in London.
‘Well done,’ she says. ‘Did she ever talk about the school? Teachers? Lessons? Friends?’
I have to think. It seems so long ago. ‘She talked about lessons because she said that some children would think I was lucky, not having to go to school. She told me about writing a lot and adding things up. But what I remember most is that she said she had to pray to a god a lot. Lessons had prayer time. She said she’d been told that prayers keep you safe. She’d prayed in school and every day in that place until she decided that prayers can’t help you.’
Jones is nodding. ‘I went to the same school, I think. Saint Joseph’s Roman Catholic Secondary School. Your mum was right. Praying can’t help you. I think that school taught lies.’
I nod. My mum would agree. ‘It sounds like a stupid school that you went to. It probably is the same one that my mum went to. They should teach things like Veuve teaches instead. Veuve doesn’t teach lies.’
She’s smiling at me properly now. Her mouth is stretched across her face but she looks sad. I wonder if she went to a stupid school as well.
‘Did you always live in the same place?’ Jones asks. Veuve gives him one of her looks. He’s in trouble—she’s cross. I don’t know whether I should answer. She smiles at me so I do.
‘The same building but we got moved sometimes. Some of the rooms were a bit brighter because yellow light would shine in there at night. Like in my room here.’
‘Streetlights,’ Jones says. I frown. ‘The lights in the street that come on at night. They shine into bedroom windows and make the room look yellowy.’
‘Streetlights. Lights in the streets. Makes sense,’ I say and he gives me a look that says he agrees.
‘Do you think you could find the building?’ he asks.
I shrug. ‘I don’t know where it is. You said London is very big.’
‘It is,’ he smiles. ‘But do you remember hearing those noises when we were trying to find out where the boy, Dan, was the other week? You recognised the sound of the machine beeping when it went backwards. You knew it was by the tall blue tower building and the four matching towers. And that it was by the water and the trains. You knew a lot although you didn’t know the name of that part of London. Can you do the same thing now? Tell us about sounds or buildings or anything you remember.’
I think hard. I like making him smile. He does it when I impress him. He says I’m smart. But there were just lots of buildings that looked the same. It was noisy inside my building most of the time. My mum said it was because of trains that went underground. I tell Jones but he just nods. I don’t think he was impressed by trains under the ground.
‘What did the building look like from outside?’ he asks.
‘Orange or brown bricks,’ I reply.
‘What about windows?’
‘Lots of windows with bars on them. They were old I think. A lot of glass was broken.’
‘Were there any other buildings nearby?’ Veuve asks.
I nod. ‘Lots.’
‘What did they look like?’ she asks.
I shrug. ‘About the same.’
‘What was the road outside like?’ Jones asks.
I shrug. ‘A road. Cars and lorries.’
‘Was it a busy road? Were there lots of cars and lorries? Were they going fast?’
I shrug. I don’t know what he means by busy or fast. I know what the words mean, I just don’t know what they mean when you’re talking about a road.
I hear Jones sigh. I think he’s getting fed up of the questions now. I am too. I’d rather be playing tennis on the Xbox. This is boring.
I wonder if I’ve spoken out loud because they’re both looking at each other. Those looks where they don’t speak but they want to because the other person can’t understand. I saw a programme on TV a few months ago about how your body can talk. That’s how I learned to look for all the things that Veuve does.
I think she’s telling him to stop. I hope so.
‘I need you to think about it, Kid,’ he says. ‘Your mum and your sister are in that building. I need you to try to think of something that will help us find it. Something about the area or the men. Anything?’
‘My mum’s not there.’
‘What?’ he says. ‘Where is she?’ He’s frowning.
‘In the water near the place you went to look for that boy.’
He turns to looks at Veuve and they stare at each other for a moment.
‘Was she with you?’ she says. ‘That night?’
‘Did anybody get her out of the water with you?’ she says.
I shake my head. ‘No, they got us out of a van on the bridge and threw us in. She grabbed me and tried to get a cover off me. It was a bit like a coat but very heavy. I panicked and had swallowed water when they threw us in. She pinched my nose and breathed air into my mouth. Then we popped up to the top of the water. I was panicking but she told me to keep my mouth closed when it was in the water. She said to hold my breath then. She tried to show me. She made noises like this.’
I hum loudly.
‘We went under again. She breathed into my mouth again but then managed to get the heavy thing off me. She was pushing or pulling me up and my head went above the water. I breathed a big breath in. I heard somebody shouting but my mum had gone. I went back under the water. I tried to scream but water went inside my mouth. I wanted my mum but I don’t know where she’d gone. Then everything went black.’
It’s quiet. They’re staring at each other and Veuve is patting my leg.
‘I think I’ll go to bed now,’ I say.
‘Not before one last game of tennis,’ Veuve says. She’s smiling and excited now. I think she wants us to beat Jones. He’s good but he’s not as good as us. He keeps losing.
He loses. He is too slow. I think he must be tired because he didn’t jump around much. But it could have been those glasses. Veuve says he can’t see much through them inside. I don’t like them. I can’t see his eyes at all. It feels like he’s looking at me all the time.
HER SMILING FACE STARES back at me, unseeing and unfeeling. How many times have I willed it to speak to me, to tell me where I can find her? How many times have I convinced myself that she’s dead? But then The Kid gives me a glimmer of hope and the flame that I used to keep burning brightly flickers to life. Now, that flame is doused forever ... doused by the dirty water of the Thames.
She loved being in water—right from when she was a baby. She’d loved her bath time, splashing around for all she was worth. As she grew, summer time meant a paddling pool in the garden—my dad must have got sick and tired of emptying and refilling it to keep the water clean. I’ll bet he cheered when she was old enough to go to the local leisure centre with her mates.
On holidays, we could never get her out of the sea. I remember one time when a rogue wave caught her unawares ... we were on a spring break in Brighton. She’d be about eight I suppose. No matter that it was freezing cold, that the beach was practically empty—just a few appropriately clothed dog walkers around. She was barefoot with her jeans rolled up to her knees in seconds.
The waves were breaking and rushing over her feet. She was squealing in delight, despite my mum panicking that she’d become hypothermic in no time. My dad was laughing, telling her that Sandy was tough, like him. Of course, Sandy agreed with him, but she looked at my mum with a reassuring smile on her face. She hated the thought of upsetting anyone.
Out of nowhere, a freak wave hit her from behind, buckling her knees and taking her down. I’d been laughing at her, wondering how long it would be before she was freezing and we’d all have to go back to the hotel. I watched her go down ... it was like it was being shown in slow motion. Man, I wish I’d been able to film it. That wave showed her who was boss. Within a second, she was sitting on the sand with water up to her armpits, her eyes and mouth wide open from the shock of being almost entirely submerged in freezing cold water.
Within five seconds, I was soaked up to my knees but I got her up out of that cold water. My dad rushed in too and picked her up, soaking himself in the process. My mum was hopping about like a mother hen. Of course, everything was fine—our hotel was only a few minutes’ walk away. We were soon warm and dry again. It went down in family folklore. It was never long before somebody brought it up.
It didn’t put Sandy off going in the water, though. By the time she went up to high school, she represented our region on the amateur swimming circuit. She wanted to swim the Channel one day—she was too young to attempt it before she disappeared ... no, not disappeared, some fucker took her. Some fucking bastard took my sweet, beautiful sister then confined her to a lifetime of abuse before throwing her in the Thames.
From what The Kid said, I know there’d be no chance of her surviving. He said they had heavy covers on but she managed to get his off. I know that corpses are disposed of in water by weighing them down but what kind of sick fuck does that when the victims are still alive? I thought that only happened in Hollywood movies—the mob’s alleged M.O.—the mythical cement overcoat.
First thing in the morning, I’ll get back on to Mack, my mate in the Met. I’ll have him check out any unidentified remains that have been found in the Thames in the past year. I haven’t got a clue how they’d identify her. Dental records aren’t going to be much use, surely—her last dental records are over twenty years old. I’ll ask him to look into that too.
What if she’s still down there?
Suddenly I can’t see the smiling face in front of me ... my vision darkens and images I can’t face swim into my mind. My stomach churns making me retch. I grab the window sill as rage surges through my veins but I’ve nowhere to channel it. The bastards that did that to my sister will pay. I won’t rest until I’ve hunted every last one of them down and broken every fucking bone in their body. Slowly. Agonisingly. I’ll make them wish I’d weighted their bodies and thrown them in the Thames to drown like rats.
I pull my fist back needing to hit out ... but there’s nothing to hit. I’m not stupid enough to punch a window. Nor the wall—I learned that lesson years ago. Not since I joined the Royal Marines have I wanted to lash out, just for the sake of it but right now, the desire to smash someone’s face in is almost overpowering. I need to unleash the anger but I don’t know how.
I turn and find Veuve leaning against the door frame observing me. I see pity on her face. I don’t want her to pity me. Out of all the things I find myself wanting from her, pity is what she offers.
I need air ... I need ... fuck knows what but, as I attempt to get past her, she reaches out and grasps my arm. I try to shake her off but, she holds fast, sidestepping to bar my exit.
‘Not now, Veuve,’ I warn. ‘I need to get out of here.’
‘Where are you going?’ she asks calmly. ‘To get shitfaced? To get laid?’
‘To make some fucker pay for what happened to my sister.’
She rolls her eyes like she’s dealing with a five-year-old. I feel my fists clench. My patience is just about running on empty.
‘Jones, don’t be a dick. You can’t take it out on
... some random guy who just happens to look at you in the wrong way. We need to find out who’s responsible and make sure they’re brought to justice. You going off half-cocked, looking for trouble isn’t going to help anyone. Calm the hell down and stop acting like a knob.’