3.4 - TOURISTS
The lower deck was quite full with passengers laughing and chattering, awaiting the off. Some, it seemed were still in recovery mode from the previous night’s festivities but were in good form, their mood jovial. A few spare seats were available but Becky wanted to sit on her own so she ventured upstairs to see if more were free.
Half a dozen others had chosen the upper deck also. It seemed the best view was not to everyone’s liking. As the bus rolled out on its tour, she soon realised why. The October temperature seeped its way down her collar, up sleeves and wrapped itself around her shoulders. She shivered. Foolish! Why had she not realised the closeness of the sea would add to the chill? She shunted down, trying to huddle, keep warm.
By the time the tour had snaked its way up around Khyber Pass and the Whalebone Arch, she contemplated moving down to the lower deck.
Laughter drew her attention. The Mad Hatter and his companion were sat ahead of her. They didn’t seem to mind the chill, they were chatting together, pointing to and commenting on various attractions as if it were a warm summer day.
She wondered why, clad in a thick woollen cardigan, she seemed to feel the chill, unlike the odd couple. Maybe she was just tired, having been restless and wedged in an armchair most the night. She shrugged and decided to stay where she was, not wanting to lose face to a couple who were in costume.
The voice through the speakers continued its informative spiel, advising the passengers to look left or right as they passed various sites. The bus stopped at The Royal Hotel, allowing those who wished to disembark or climb aboard to do so, then it continued on its way.
Becky pulled out her phone and took some snapshots. There was no denying Whitby had character and the outpouring of historical rhetoric on the tour added to its attraction. It felt like a town trapped within days of old but served by modern conveniences. It was growing on Becky, a soft smile quivering on her lips as they descended to the New Bridge before climbing again, this time towards the Abbey.
The bus drew to a halt and passengers left, making their way to the entrance where the reception area with ticket sales and gift shop were situated.
Ahead of her, the Mad Hatter bobbed between the bodies moving forward, his companion, nowhere to be seen. Becky’s eyes searched for her, curious. It wasn’t as if the crowd was large enough for her to vanish within. Then quite suddenly, there she was, linking arms with the colourful top-hat wearing man.
Inside, people queued for tickets. A man approached her, one of the staff, asking if it was her first time to the Abbey and if she was considering visiting other attractions during her stay. She nodded but politely dismissed him as he started touting for an annual pass offering cheaper entrance fees to all sites. Her attention was once more on the costumed couple.
She watched, fascinated, as now it appeared they did not pay but were given access to the attraction. She could have sworn the girl at the till was in a trance.
Someone behind her had also noticed and passed comment. “Must have one of those things that guy’s trying to sell us.”
Becky grinned to herself. Of course! She was susceptible to allowing her mind to conjure up all sorts of fabrications at the moment. This town was beginning to affect her normal sensible thought processes.
She reached the front of the queue paid for her ticket, grabbed a brochure then climbed the stairs.
An array of glass cabinets were positioned along the wooden upper floor, their contents being archaeological finds from the site over a span of years. She wandered to each, letting her eyes drift over the oddities and finding a sense of calm. That soon dissipated when her phone rang.
Without a second thought, she hit the little green telephone symbol. “Hello?”
She froze. A few moments later, she was chastising herself for not having looked at the screen. “Michael,” she replied, exhaling at length.
“It was a chance I took, using Billy’s phone, I didn’t think you’d answer if you saw it was me.”
No, I wouldn’t have, she thought, still furious at not checking first. She would not have answered an unknown number either. She had wrongly assumed it was Nick or Craig calling.
Taking a deep breath, she cut to the chase. “What do you want?”
She heard the relief in the sigh at the other end. She had heard it before though. “We need to talk, Becky. Please.”
“There is nothing to say, Michael.”
“Please. Look, I know I fucked up...”
“Again!” She pushed through the glass door which led out on to the Abbey grounds.
He hesitated, drawing breath. “Yes, ok, I know...”
“Then why do you think I would want to talk to you any more?” Her voice had a cutting edge to it, a mixture of her hurt and anger. A gull screeched, followed by another.
“Wait. Are you at the festival?” He sounded hopeful.
She scrunched her eyes shut, cursing the gulls. “What? Oh, we don’t have gulls where we live now, is that it?”
“I sold the tickets,” she spouted. “I also managed to offload the accommodation.”
“Who to?” The disappointment in his voice was tangible.
“No-one you know. Just someone at work.” The lie had tripped off her tongue quite easily. It gave her a little courage.
“Well, that aside, can I come over then?”
She had to think quick. “I’m staying with friends so I am not at home.”
“Come over to mine, then.”
“Are you serious? After what greeted me the last time?”
“I was stupid, I’m sorry...”
"Stupid?” She strode down the ramp and up onto the Abbey grounds. Her heart was hammering; fury building. “You forgot I had a key? You were banging some nightclub tits-and-ass and you think you were just stupid?”
“I said I’m sorry...”
She was storming towards the ruin, tears welling. She so didn’t need this. “Well, so am I! Sorry I ever hooked up with you.”
He guffawed. Then after a moment, “At least we’re talking, it’s a start.”
She saw red. ”Start? No! It’s the fucking end!” She terminated the call and before thinking, launched her phone. It went hurtling towards one of the Abbey’s ruined walls. She paled the moment it left her hand and tears cascaded, blinding her.
A sound of metal slapping onto skin reached her ears. She swallowed, blinking rapidly and dragging her hand across her eyes.
“You may need this,” a voice said, soft, low.
Her eyes rested on her phone, held in a hand. She looked up.
The mysterious stranger stood before her. Although her vision was still bleary, she could still make out his chiselled features. Dark eyes like obsidian pools held her. Full lips with the barest hint of a smile opened. “Take it,” he encouraged, pressing her phone closer.
She reached out, taking her phone. He had long nails which housed some grime underneath. She was transfixed. Then he sniffed.
His head tilted, questioningly, his hair brushing over his shoulder, strands riding the October breeze. His eyes darkened and looked beyond her shoulder.
She turned, trying to gauge what captured his attention. She only saw the tourists, including the Mad Hatter and vampire hunter, milling through the ruins.
Once more, as she turned back to speak with him, he was gone. Space vacated. She spun, slowly her eyes raking every bit of stone and hilly mound. He was nowhere. Her disappointment was so profound at that moment, more tears spilt.
Unbeknown to her, two other sets of eyes were searching also.
Then they rested upon her.