The Border Part Three (6 page)

“Who?”

“I can’t tell you that. I’m just a figment of your subconscious mind, remember?” She paused. “Unless you’ve changed your mind about that and you’ve decided I’m a spooky old ghost?”

“Ghosts don’t exist.”

“So I’m part of you.”

“Help me,” Jane whispered. “If you know the killer’s identity, that means
I
know it.”

Caitlin nodded.

“But I
don’t
!” Jane hissed.

“You do.”

“Subconsciously?”

Caitlin nodded.

“Then if you’re my subconscious mind, why can’t you tell me?”

“Because you’re not asking the right question. Not really.”

“Who’s the killer?”

“Not killer,” Caitlin replied. “Killers. There’s more than one, and the best part is… They don’t even know each other.”

“But -”

“Hey,” Jack said suddenly, stopping in the doorway. “Are you talking to yourself?”

“No. Why?”

“Well, ‘cause when I came in just now, you seemed to be talking to someone, and I don’t see anyone else in the room.”

Caitlin smiled.

“Just running through some things in my head,” Jane said, trying not to sound agitated. Her mind was racing and she wanted him to leave her alone, but at the same time she was worried he might get suspicious. She’d been careful not to let anyone overhear her talking to Caitlin so far, and she hated the fact that she’d managed to let her guard down. “You know, trying to make sense of things. Thought exercises, that kind of thing. It’s totally healthy, there’s no reason not to do it.”

“Well I’m going to file a little more copy,” he told her, “probably from bed, and then I’m going to sleep. You coming?”

She nodded.

“Time to check if he passed the test,” Caitlin whispered in her ear.

Once Jack had gone upstairs, Jane made her way back through to the front room. Sure enough, when she looked at the coffee table, she saw that her phone had moved. The change wasn’t even particularly subtle; it was as if Jack just assumed there was no way she’d notice.

“Oh dear,” Caitlin said, sounding highly amused. “Looks like tomorrow morning’s paper is gonna be a fun read.”

“What did you mean when you said there were multiple killers?” Jane asked, turning to her, only to find that she was gone. “Caitlin!” she hissed, hurrying to the kitchen, but there was no sign of anyone. “Great,” she muttered finally, turning and resting her forehead gently against the wall. “How can there be multiple killers who don’t know each other?”

***

“So how did it go with old Crutchlow?” Hayley asked, sliding onto the sofa next to Katie as loud music continued to pulse all around them. “I saw he had his hands all over you a while ago.”

“You know what he’s like,” Katie replied. “He just likes to touch.”

“Oh,” Hayley said, “he doesn’t
just
like to touch.”

“He’s very friendly,” Katie admitted. “Sometimes a little
too
friendly.”

For a moment, glancing across the club, she thought she saw Tom Lanegan watching her from the red haze, but if it
was
him, he quickly stepped back and out of view. It wasn’t the first time she’d thought he was keeping an eye on her, and she although she kept telling herself not to worry, she couldn’t shake the feeling that out of all the girls working in The Border that night, she was receiving most of his attention.

“Popped off to the toilet, has he?” Hayley continued. “Good old Crutchlow, always let down by that weak bladder of his. Still, I hope tonight has made you realize that you belong here after all. The third night is always the hardest, but I promise you, the fourth night is a doddle. After this, it gets so much easier.”

“How long have
you
been here?” Katie asked.

“Long enough to know how things work.” She paused for a moment. “Long enough to know that on my rare nights off, I have to find a way to unwind. Refocus, recharge, you know? And if Simon calls to ask me to take an extra shift, I always refuse. I don’t want to give all my time to this place.” Another pause. “I’ve got a night off tomorrow, and I fully intend to just immerse myself in… me. Get really self-absorbed, you know? I don’t want to be thinking about other people or their needs.”

“I’m off tomorrow too,” Katie replied. “I just want to go somewhere quiet, this music’s starting to give me a headache. It’s not even music, either. It’s more like this pulsing, repetitive beat. I can’t believe people can’t hear it above-ground.”

“Do you know where we are right now?” Hayley asked, looking up at the ceiling. “We’re right underneath the police station.”

“We are?” Katie asked, following her gaze. “For real?”

“For real. Right under it, and about thirty feet down. Kinda symbolic, don’t you think?” Nudging Katie’s side, she pointed to the far side of the room. “Over there, that’s the town square. The Border is basically directly underneath the very center of the town. If there’s anyone up there now, in the square, they won’t be able to hear a thing. They have no idea about this place.”

“So how many people
do
know?”

“Just the people who work here and the people who come here,” Hayley continued. “A few others, but not many. It’s important for this particular underground club to stay underground, if you know what I mean. When The Border was first set up, a long time ago, there was no town at all. The founders wanted to build it way out in the middle of nowhere, where no-one could find them. Eventually they realized they were drawing attention to themselves. People were wondering why folks were driving out here and disappearing underground, so the whole town of Bowley was built right on top of The Border as a kind of cover.”

“Seriously?”

“That’s the version of the story that I heard. Of course, that was all back in, like, the nineteen-hundreds, something like that. Bowley’s almost a normal town now.” She paused, before a broad smile crossed her lips. “Almost being the key word there.”

“What’s through there?” Katie asked, looking past her and staring at a door in the corner. “It looks like the door up above, the one that leads down here.”

“Don’t worry about that door,” Hayley replied, with a slight chill in her voice. “That door isn’t for us.”

“But what is it?”

“It’s…” Pausing, Hayley looked around for a moment, as if she was worried about them being overheard. “That door goes down to the next level.”

“There’s another level?”

“Of course there is. You’ve got Bowley on top, which is relatively normal. Then you come down here and you’ve got this place, the first level of The Border.” She paused again. “There’s another level below. It’s different down there. Darker, more extreme, and that goes for the customers as well as the girls.”

“There’s a whole other club below this one?”

Hayley nodded.

“Why can’t we go down?”

“The girls who go down to that club are asked to do a lot more,” Hayley told her. “They get paid more, obviously, but in return…” She paused again, with a hint of sadness in her eyes. “Trust me, it’s better to just stay in this part. Even if you’re offered the chance to go down to the next level, you shouldn’t take it. If half the stories I’ve heard about that place are true, it’s not worth it.”

“But -”

“Makes this level suddenly not seem so bad, huh?” she added, looking over toward the red haze as she heard familiar laughter. “I think Mr. Crutchlow’s coming back. Sometimes tells me he’s gonna want you to himself for the rest of the night, so I should probably, like, get out of the way.” She looked down at Katie’s bare chest. “You wanna see a trick before I go?”

Before Katie could answer, Hayley grabbed a small flashlight from behind one of the cushions and shone its purplish light straight at Katie’s chest. Looking down, Katie was shocked to see that the flashlight was picking out the thousands of fingerprints across her bare flesh, showing every spot where she’d been touched during her latest shift.

“And it’s not even midnight,” Hayley reminded her, before switching the light off and slipping it back behind the cushion. “Enjoy yourself, and remember, no matter how crazy things get down here, it’s still a lot better than going through that door and being down on the level below.”

With that, Hayley leaped up from the sofa and bounded away, just as Mr. Crutchlow’s smile came into view through the club’s red haze.

***

“I’m sorry it’s so late,” Ben said as he followed Beth into the kitchen. “I just wanted to let you know that I spoke to Dad today. He won’t be coming for Christmas.”

“Big surprise,” she muttered, switching the kettle on before closing the browser on her phone. “Thanks for trying. I know you probably had to clench a little while you were talking to him.”

“What are you up to?” he asked with a frown.

“Nothing.” She slipped the phone away and turned to him. “Why?”

“You seem startled, like I just walked in on you doing something you don’t want me to know about.”

“Don’t be silly,” she replied, clearly a little flustered. “I was just checking some stuff out. It’s late, like you said.”

“And Bob’s out?”

“Double shift at work. Apparently.”

“But if he -”

“So how did it actually go with Dad?” she asked, clearly keen to change the subject. “I’m popping over to clean his kitchen tomorrow, so it’d be nice to know what I’ll find. Any blood-stains?”

“I offered him what he wanted,” Ben continued with a sigh. “After all these years, I finally offered it to him on a plate, it was his for the asking, but the old man is such a fucking coward.” He paused. “That’s always been his problem. He’s the kind of man who continually circles, but never plucks up the courage to land.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Just…” Ben paused for a moment, thinking back to the moment earlier at his father’s place. “I told him he just had to ask me. He couldn’t do it. Or he wouldn’t. Either way, he didn’t.”

“You’ve lost me,” Beth replied. “What was he supposed to ask you?”

“The same thing everyone in this family wants to ask me.”

“Not everyone,” she pointed out.

“Never mind. It’s probably just me being melodramatic, but… I thought if I offered him the chance he’d take it, and we could end this charade once and for all. It’s been fifteen years, I figured there was a possibility that he’d be willing to grow up and admit what he did.”

“Thanks for trying,” she said after a moment. “I know it can’t have been easy to see him again.”

“You know he was wrong, don’t you?”

She paused. “Why do you even have to ask me that?”

“Because I know Jack still has doubts.”

“I’m not Jack.”

“And I’m grateful for that.”

“What Dad did to you that day…” She paused again, with tears in her eyes. “Ben, you know I’ve always trusted you and I’ve always believed in you. What Dad did to you that day, when he took you to…” Stepping over to him, she gave him a hug, holding him tight. “What Dad did to you that day was unforgivable and I’ve always,
always
known that there’s no way you could have done those things. You’re my brother, Ben, I think I’d know if you had that kind of personality. I mean, I hope to hell I would.”

“Thanks, Sis,” he replied, putting his arms around her. “That means a lot to me.”

“And don’t worry about Jack, he’s just got a bug up his ass.”

“What’s it about this time?”

“Who knows?” she replied, heading back over to the kettle. “You know what he’s like, he has a series of bugs and he swaps them around from time to time. Pulls one out, pops another one straight in. I stopped paying attention a long time ago.”

“Don’t worry about tea for me,” Ben muttered, heading to the door. “I’m beat and I want to get up early tomorrow morning. There are a few things I want to check out.”

“You sure?”

“Thanks again for letting me stay. I’ll try not to snore too loud.”

She smiled, before waiting as the kettle boiled and as she heard Ben heading upstairs. Once she was sure she was alone, she took her phone from her pocket and brought up the browser again. She’d been struggling all day to get the ‘other’ internet working, and she was constantly worried that someone was about to burst in and ask her what the hell she was doing, but at the same time her curiosity was building. Finding an image-board, she saw some of the titles and felt another shiver, and then she clicked on the first.

She grimaced as soon as she saw the photo of a man who’d been shot in the head. Half his skull had been blown away, leaving pieces of his brain dripping down the side, and his eyes were wide open, staring at the camera almost as if somehow he knew people were looking at him.

Taking a deep breath, she clicked through to the next image, and this time she saw photos from an autopsy, showing a girl with her chest sliced open to reveal her heart and other organs. The next image showed her head, the top of which had been cut off to expose her brain. She spent the next few minutes looking at other images from the autopsy: a brain in a steel pan; a heart being weighed; close-up shots of the girl’s stab-wounds.

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