The Oxfordshire countryside, five miles from
The same night, 12.05 a.m.
‘Come back here, Kate!’
But she was already out of the car and trudging over the rough grass towards the road.
‘Piss off,’ she fired back over her shoulder as she stamped away. Dec thumped the steering wheel and swore loudly.
Kate was fuming as she reached the road and kept walking. No way she was getting back in that car. She’d walk all the way back home to Wallingford if she had to.
If she was angry with Dec Maddon, she was even angrier with herself for having accepted the boy next door’s invitation to go out for a drive. She liked him, she really did. But when he’d suddenly produced the little white pills and offered her one, she’d got scared. Scared of getting into trouble. Scared that he was trying to get her into a state where she’d have sex with him.
And scared that she’d give in. He was a few months older than her, not far off his eighteenth birthday. Better looking than any of the boys at school, and he drove a Golf GTI. He was exciting and wild. Maybe a little too wild. Kate drew the line at taking drugs.
She walked on as fast as her wobbly heels would let her. Shivering now, feeling the dampness of the mist and wishing she’d put on something heavier than the flimsy cotton top – but refusing to regret that she’d got out of the car.
It was a couple of minutes later when she saw the headlights coming up behind her. She turned and put out her thumb. The car sounded its horn at her and drove on. She did the V’s at the disappearing taillights. ‘Wanker!’
She kept walking. The dark empty road was spooky, but she didn’t care. So what if it was Hallowe’en? She wasn’t a kid any more. She was more concerned about the cold. Really getting to her now.
Then, a little further up the road, she saw another car approaching. She was about to put her thumb out again when it signalled and pulled up. She trotted over to it. Big square headlights, the luxuriant purr of a very expensive car. She noticed the Rolls-Royce radiator grille as she walked up close. The driver’s window whirred down.
Kate peered inside. ‘Thanks for stopping,’ she said.
Dec Maddon sat there muttering angrily to himself and slapping his forehead with his palm. What an eejit, blowing it like that. His dad was gonna kill him if this got back. The ecstasy pills were a new thing – in fact he’d never even touched the stuff in his life before deciding it would be a cool thing to try tonight with Kate – but of course nobody would believe him. He was in the deepest shit imaginable. Kate probably wouldn’t want to talk to him again, and her stuck-up bitch of a mother would have a field day.
He’d been crazy about Kate Hawthorne ever since his family had bought the house next door. She was beautiful, with china-blue eyes, tumbling red curls that looked like something out of an old painting and a smile that made his day – and up until now he’d been pretty sure the signals she’d been putting out meant she kind of liked him too. Trust him to go and fuck it all up.
He sat there fulminating for a few minutes before he decided to follow her. He’d explain. She’d understand…he hoped.
He started the car and bumped over the verge onto the country road, turning right to head back towards home. The mist drifted in his headlights. He was certain he’d spot her pretty quickly.
And he did. But she wasn’t alone. She was just getting into a black Rolls that was pulled over at the side of the road. She shut the door behind her, and the big car moved off.
Dec followed it for a few miles. The mist was rapidly thickening, and he was so focused on tailing the Rolls that he began to lose all sense of direction. They were deep into the winding country lanes now, way off his normal routes. After a while, the Rolls indicated left and glided through a tall gateway. Automatic gates closed behind it, blocking him out.
He parked the Golf at the side of the road. His breath was misting in the cool night air as he walked up to the gates and ran his hand down the cold wrought iron bars. He looked up.
Two giant birds were peering down at him out of the drifting fog. He stared up at their curved beaks and great wings, and it was a moment before he realised he was looking at stone statues perched on the gateposts. The way their eyes seemed to bore into him made him strangely uneasy. He looked away from them, and that was when he noticed the tarnished bronze plaque on the craggy wall. He had to pull away some of the moss sprouting over the stonework to read it.
What was this place? Some kind of stately home, he thought. Some rich guy’s place. What was Kate doing here?
Face it, Dec. You’re just not her class. She’s a solicitor’s daughter and you’re just a mechanic like your dad.
He was about to walk away, but then felt a powerful urge to go in there and have it out with her. He couldn’t let things end like this.
He started climbing the high wall.