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Here’s a little taster:
That evening, the fight between father and son was fearsome.
Going about her tasks in the kitchen of the grand old London townhouse, the cook found it impossible to ignore the alarming sounds from the rooms above. What was going on up there? Why was the boy screaming so relentlessly? What was that tone in his voice? Fear? Pain?
Knowing it was unwise to be too inquisitive, the cook hastily closed the kitchen door and turned up the radio, but the cheerful music was never going to be enough to drown out the crashes. Or that awful screaming.
The cook shivered involuntarily.
Without warning, feet pounded down the stairs followed by a shouted command: ‘Mooreland, get that mess cleared up.’ Then the front door slammed.
As Annie, the youngest of the housemaids, struggled through from the utility room, a huge basket of laundry in her hands, the kitchen door opened and the head of the household staff stood on the threshold.
‘Girl,’ he said sourly, ‘go upstairs and clean His Lordship’s office. You’ll need a mop, scrubbing brush and hot water. And disinfectant.’
‘Yes, Mr Mooreland,’ replied Annie, dumping the laundry basket in the middle of the floor and pulling a face at her boss’s back. Resisting the urge to break into hysterical laughter, the cook instead tripped over the laundry.
‘What’s going on?’ Mooreland swung round. ‘You stupid child, can’t you do anything right?’ Watching Annie as she filled a bucket with hot water and detergent, Mooreland spoke again, his voice low and sinister.
‘Whatever you may think you see and hear upstairs, girl, you will ignore. Understand? You will see nothing. You will hear nothing.’
‘Yes, Mr Mooreland.’
Winking briefly at the cook, Annie did as she was told. Reaching the master’s office on the third floor, she looped the handle of the bucket over her arm and opened the door.
The sight that greeted her caused her to gag, stagger backwards and slop water onto the floor.
‘Oh my God,’ she murmured, casting wide, frightened eyes around the room. Screwing up her courage, knowing she’d be in deep trouble if she didn’t get on with the task in hand, Annie mopped up the spilt water then moved into the room.
Half an hour later, her task was complete. Collecting her bucket, an unusually sombre Annie made for the door, tempted by the safety of the ground floor and the warm company of the cook. However, her youthful curiosity got the better of her and she lingered on the landing, gazing up the stairs to the darkened fourth floor and listening to the sounds drifting down. The sounds she was supposed to ignore.
What are they doing to that boy? she thought.
A figure loomed from the darkness above, descending towards her. Choking on a scream, only just remembering to keep hold of the bucket, Annie turned to flee.
‘Interested, little girl?’ Slimy hands clamped on to Annie’s arms and the unmistakable smell of blood filled her nostrils. ‘Want to see upstairs?’
‘N-n-no,’ she stammered, despising her cowardice.
Her captor sniggered. Annie shuddered.
‘Girl, have you finished yet?’ yelled Mooreland, appearing from the lower floors. Never had Annie been so glad to see her miserable boss.
‘Yes, Mr Mooreland. Just coming, Mr Mooreland.’
Mooreland glowered at the man holding Annie captive.
‘Dyer, haven’t you had enough…er…fun this evening?’
The man called Dyer sniggered again. Violence clearly amused him.
‘Let the girl go.’
Inclining his head in deference to Mooreland’s superiority within the household, Dyer did as he was told and crept back up the stairs, where the master’s son was still yelling incoherently and pounding on his bedroom door. There was a sharp crack and a thud, the significance of which Annie didn’t want to contemplate…then silence. Nothing to be heard but the ticking of the master’s grandfather clock.
Annie fled. Down three flights of stairs she sprinted, running into the welcoming arms of the cook as she burst through the kitchen door.
‘Glory, child, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.’
‘Blood,’ gasped Annie, ‘everywhere.’
‘Hush, Annie, you know the trouble loose tongues can cause.’
‘But the boy’s hurt, badly…’
‘Hush!’ Leaning closer, the cook whispered in Annie’s ear, ‘His Lordship’s son is the strong one, you know that. He’ll be right as rain tomorrow, you’ll see.’
Nodding slightly, Annie allowed the cook to lead her to the table and make her a cup of strong, sweet tea. Neither of them knew it then, but the cook couldn’t have been more wrong.
That evening a deep sadness descended on the grand old London townhouse. As the weeks turned into months, the months into years, it was as if the exuberant boy who’d once brightened its cavernous rooms with his energy and laughter had ceased to exist.