No Turning Back by Tracy Buchanan
The Second One
You’re staring out towards the dockyards, brow creased. You will not look at me. I want you to look at me.
‘Look,’ I say, pointing out of the other window facing towards the beach. ‘It’s starting.’
You turn and narrow your eyes.
‘There, see,’ I say, pointing towards the family spilling out of a car, their bright towels flapping in the wind. There’s a mum and dad, a boy and two girls. The pebbles of the beach shine under the sun, small boats shimmying over the waves in the distance. They’re from The Docks, I can tell from their decrepit old car.
Something changes in you as you look out of the window, eyes alighting on the sullen boy who helps his father get out a tatty-looking picnic hamper. At least this family are trying, taking their kids out for a Sunday afternoon on the beach.
‘Shall we go to the beach?’ you say, smiling now.
‘Why not? We can get lunch at the cafe.’
You laugh. ‘Come on.’
As we walk to the beach together, I feel free like that seagull over there, soaring above the lighthouse and craggy rocks. It doesn’t matter that the sandwiches are a bit dry when we get to the cafe, the fizzy drink too warm. I start to feel like this is the best day of my life, being here with you.
I watch you bite into your sandwich. Your eyes are on the boy again. He’s fourteen or fifteen. He has headphones on, head hunched over a comic book. His dark hair is too long, and he’s wearing cut-off jeans and a grey t-shirt with a growling dog on the front.
The boy looks up, catches me watching him.
I turn away.
‘Don’t be shy,’ you say in a quiet voice. ‘You should go talk to the boy. That way he won’t bat an eyelid when you see him next. He’ll be relaxed.’
I think of the last boy, the first one, and a tremor of fear rushes through me. ‘I don’t know.’
‘Look, this is the perfect opportunity.’
The mum gets up and takes the girls to the water’s edge as the dad strolls to the cafe.
The boy’s alone now.
You jog your arm into mine. ‘Go. Practise on him.’ You stand up, stretching. ‘I’m getting another drink.’
You give me a look – the look – then stride off.
I stay where I am for a few moments, fear battling curiosity. Can I really do this? Do I want to do this? You think I can but I’m not so sure.
I take a deep breath then walk along the beach to the boy, weaving between all the people who are cluttering the beach now. The boy doesn’t notice me for a bit as I stand over him. Then he looks up, scowling.
‘Looks interesting,’ I say, gesturing to the comic book.
The boy takes his headphones off. ‘What?’ He looks angry. It’s clear he doesn’t want to talk to me.
I think about heading back, then peer at the cafe. You nod at me, encouraging. I don’t want to disappoint you.
I kneel down beside the boy. ‘I’ve met the man who illustrates those,’ I lie.
‘Oh yeah?’ the boy says, feigning disinterest but I see his eyes light up.
‘Yep. My friend’s brother knew him.’
He looks me up and down. ‘I’ve seen you at school.’
‘That’s right. You like it there?’
He laughs. ‘Does anyone?’
I laugh back and we start to talk.
After a while, I sneak a peek back at the cafe to see you watching us, this strange intense look in your eyes. I look back at the boy and know things aren’t going to end well for him.
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You’d kill to protect your child – wouldn’t you?
FROM THE #1 BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF My Sister’s Secret
When radio presenter Anna Graves and her baby are attacked on the beach by a crazed teenager, Anna reacts instinctively to protect her daughter.
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A frenzied media attack sends Anna into a spiral of self-doubt. Her precarious mental state is further threatened when she receives a chilling message from someone claiming to be the ‘Ophelia Killer’, responsible for a series of murders twenty years ago.
Is Anna as innocent as she claims? And is murder forgivable, if committed to save your child’s life…?