Work in Progress
I'm currently writing Backpack Man - a novella, which is a spin-off from Girl's Don't Cry. It is about what happens to one of the supporting characters from Girls Don't Cry after the story finishes. When completed I will be offering it free to members of my reader's club!
A gust of wind blew a crumpled crisp packet along the empty platform. It caught on Bert’s smart black interview shoe. He shook and kicked his foot, releasing the empty cheese and onion packet and sending it skidding off to the edge of the platform, where it disappeared onto the tracks. He wasn’t one of those people who dropped litter so felt a twinge of regret that he hadn’t put the packet in a bin. He cared about the environment, but he could hardly climb down onto the tracks to retrieve it. Apart from the obvious danger of oncoming trains, signs warned of a hefty fine if you went onto the tracks. And Bert was someone who preferred to stay on the right side of the law. At least that’s what he told himself.
He’d been waiting over forty minutes for a connecting train, and was becoming uneasy at being the only person on the station. A sense of doom was creeping up on him. Perhaps it was because the interview he’d gone to in Bristol, hadn’t gone especially well. They wanted maths graduates to work on trading algorithms to make rich people richer. He thought he’d be okay with that, but at the interview, it showed that his heart wasn’t in it. He found his mind wandering to Caitlin. He’d known her as Anna of course, but it wasn’t lost on him that Bristol was her home town. It took will power not to visit the scene of her crime after the interview, as though he wanted to wallow in all that was wrong with the world. He tutted at the way he allowed himself to be distracted like this. It had been three years since he last saw her but he still couldn’t force what had happened from his mind.
A cough. A phlegmy, rasping croak. Bert looked up to see a thin man in a crumpled old trench coat, backpack slung over his shoulder. Stooped over the edge of the platform, he looked like a vulture. The man turned to face him. Concave cheeks and vacant stone-grey eyes. It was impossible to say how old he was, could be forties, or seventies.
Feeling awkward at the eye contact, Bert looked away and contemplated texting China, an old friend of his from school, who was also doing the rounds of job interviews. She’d moved back to Westcliffe like him after college and they sometimes met for drinks and moaned to each other about their love lives and how all the jobs around seemed to involve selling your soul to big corporations.
The man came over and looked like he wanted to sit down, so Bert was forced to shuffle over to give more space. He slumped onto the bench with a sigh, putting the backpack on his knees, cradling it as though something fragile was inside. The rucksack did not match the man. It looked factory fresh. Smooth black leather.
‘Where do I know you from?’ the man said in a wheezing London accent.
‘I don’t think we’ve met.’ Bert frowned, he didn’t normally forget a face.
The man wagged his finger. ‘Recognise you from somewhere.’
‘I don’t recall.’
‘Live near Truro?’
‘Westcliffe.’ he said, wondering why he’d given up such a detail so easily. The guy looked like the last person you’d want to share any details of your life with.
‘Ah! I know Westcliffe, Westcliffe upon Sea. Nice. Very nice little seaside resort. Old fashioned.’
Maybe the guy recognised him from the King Henry. Bert’s favourite hangout. The only hangout for him and his mates.
‘Used to be a regular visitor to Westcliffe,’ the man nodded to himself, and then added with emphasis, ‘On business’, as though this was an important detail that Bert ought to know. ‘Born and bred Westcliffe are you?’
‘Well actually I was born in South America.’ Bert liked to say this to people, as it made him sound exotic or interesting, even though Bert was anything but exotic. Especially since doing a boring maths degree. Perhaps that’s why he’d wanted to go to Circus School, to make himself more exotic. But in the end when Exotic had come calling, he’d quickly run off like a frightened cat.
‘South America!’ The man sounded impressed. ‘Where abouts?’ he added with an interested frown.
‘Brazil, only my mum’s English so we moved to the UK when I was three. Can’t really remember Brazil.’
‘Brazil! Well well blow me! You’re Gilberto aren’t you? Paulo’s son! Thought you looked familiar. Spitting image of your dad. Like father like son eh?’
As far as Bert was concerned he was nothing like his dad. But then he hadn’t seen much of him in the past few years. The man had walked out on his mother and him when Bert was still in primary school.
‘Your dad and me.’ He pointed at himself with his finger. ‘We go back a long way.’
Bert gave a weak smile.
‘You and your mum still in that house in Garland Avenue?’
‘I remember that house. The way your mum kept it. Lovely and smart.’
‘Well, my dad clearly didn’t appreciate that.’ He could feel the bitterness enter his voice. He had no interest in talking to some old mate of his dad about the good old days. Wanted the man to fuck off.
‘Yeah well. That’s life I’m afraid isn’t it? People don’t always see eye to eye do they?’
Bert decided he was going to ignore this old friend of his dad and went back to messing about on his phone.
‘All the same, Paulo did alright by your mum. And you.’
‘How’s that exactly?’ he snapped before he could stop himself.
‘If you say so.’ Bert had no idea about his mother’s finances. They always had money for the things they needed, and she’d never complained about being hard up. But he’d taken that for granted, never questioned where the money came from. She had a part time job in a language school, and just assumed that it paid well. But thinking about it, that job probably wouldn’t have been enough. His father must have been sending them money, a thought which made him uncomfortable. Bert didn’t want his money. He wanted to see his dad more often. Or used to when he was a kid. Now he didn’t give a shit.
‘Oh yes. Your father is an honourable man. Looks after his own.’
‘I wouldn’t know,’ Bert said coldly. ‘I Never see him.’
‘Take it from me, then.’ The man thrust out a hand for Bert to shake. ‘Jim. Jim Plater.’
Bert didn’t want to shake Jim’s hand. If felt like crossing a line. Like agreeing to something he didn’t want to. Acknowledging his father in some way. All the same he could hardly refuse, so with some reluctance he took the hand and gave it a perfunctory shake.
‘I was your dad’s right-hand man, back in the day,’ Jim said, holding onto the hand despite Bert’s attempts to bring the handshake to a swift end. ‘Still call’s me in. I’m his go-to specialist for certain jobs.’
Bert couldn’t think of any specialism this man could offer. He looked too ill. Like he needed a specialist himself. Not just because he kept coughing. But because he looked like something inside him was rotting.
Here's a taste of some more work in progress - Taken from my new thriller: Irregular Heart.
The day I texted you was the day you died.
I’d sent it from the only hotel on the island where the beers were ice-cold and the wi-fi was free. Sitting on the terrace overlooking the beach fringed by lazy palms, I fired off a selfie.
Now, I’m staring out of the car window at Princess Victoria Infirmary’s enormous grey 1960’s concrete edifice as Caroline swings into a space marked for emergency vehicles. Strictly speaking this can hardly be called an emergency. You aren’t going anywhere. But Caroline, aka Detective Sergeant Carter, likes to pull rank.
I take a breath before getting out of the car, my heart thumping and my ears whooshing with blood. I force myself step onto the pavement and follow Caroline as she strides ahead in her dangerous-looking heels. Dressed in a dark blue pencil skirt, and jacket, she looks more like a top-flight lawyer than a police detective. But her heels are sharp enough to be her weapon of choice.
She leads me past the modern hospital building, where I had my teenage appendix removed, to the sombre Victorian wing. That’s where the morgue is housed. In the basement. Nearer Hell than Heaven.
As our footsteps echo down the stone steps to level B, I cling to the insane hope that they’ve got the wrong body. A sudden fantastical notion that you wanted to disappear and so faked your own death.
Wishful thinking. How unbearable our lives would be without its false comfort.
We reach a reception area, where Caroline mutters to a flunky and fills in some paperwork. The Hall of Rest lies behind oak panelled double doors.
‘You ready for this?’ Caroline asks, her eyebrows slightly raised in a show of sympathy, which distorts her normally impassive face.
What sort of a question is that? Course I’m not ready. I could be here for a hundred years and still not be ready.