Closer to Home

Chapter 5

Anna felt a deep reluctance as she approached the Darling house, once again. It had only been two days since her failed appointment, but it would have been negligent to ignore the concerns of Keith, especially after she had persuaded him not to get the police involved.

Keith had been good friends with Doug since they were boys, growing up on the same street. Now they would often enjoy a pint together after Doug had finished his shift and Keith had completed his deliveries. Annabel suspected Doug was a little envious of Keith’s occupation as postman… but he would never admit it. It was just the sort of thing Doug would enjoy; lots of fresh air… local people to chat to... But it didn’t pay as well as the Mill.

She felt the nagging guilt come upon her then, thinking of Doug slaving away to put food on the table and pay the rent on time… while she was out working for free. But she brushed those thoughts aside. As long as she was doing some good, it was worth it. Once a decent paying occupation turned up, perhaps Doug could start looking for a job he’d enjoy as well. By then, Anna would be expecting, and everything would be perfect.

Letting her mind slip back to the unfinished nursery, and the pretty material she was saving up for to make bedding for the cot, a smile appeared on Annabel’s face, and she almost forgot why she was walking along that quiet Georgian street.

Soon enough, though, her feet came to a stop at the gate of Number 14, and her thoughts snapped back to the present.

Peter sat on the worn mattress, watching the old man who had once been little Michael Darling. It was so quiet and peaceful when the man slept; Peter could hear the house breathing.

Despite his appearance, Michael certainly acted like a child; even as he slept, he kept his Teddy clutched tight. But Peter wasn’t sure whether he still truly had the mind of a small boy, or if it was just a desperate pretend; a denial of his obvious adulthood.

At first, Peter had thought that it didn’t really matter, either way… but then it occurred to him that it made a great deal of difference; if Michael had the mind of a child, Peter would have to treat him differently than if he were a grown-up with a vendetta.

Perhaps that was what this was… Revenge for Wendy.

But Michael seemed to genuinely want Peter’s approval and companionship. If he had wanted revenge, why hadn’t he just killed him?

It was all too strange for Peter to fathom. All he knew for sure was that Michael was dangerous, and he needed to get home.

It had been days since anyone had come to the house. It was difficult to tell exactly how long it had been, especially when he had spent much of it cooped up in the dark little papered room in which he now sat… But he had slept a few times since his capture.

No… his attempts to raise the alarm with the outside world had obviously failed, and he would need to think of another means of escape.

Peering more closely at the man to be sure, Peter was satisfied that Michael was in a deep sleep. Tentatively, the boy stood and tiptoed his way to the bedroom door.

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