Strangers | Chapter 39 of 53 - Part: 1 of 7

Author: Paul Finch | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1166 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter 32

On arriving home, Lucy had as thorough a wash as she could with one arm immobilised, accepted a bowl of chicken soup and a mug of milk, and then, as her mother instructed, limped upstairs, lay on the quilt in her bedroom and dropped her head into a soft pillow.

She’d often found at the end of unpleasant shifts that she didn’t slide into sleep easily, despite being physically and emotionally drained. Some police officers could hit an internal switch and it all went away. Lucy had never possessed this gift, though she was good at putting on a front. Now that she was alone, with no one to impress, she had no choice but to lie there and relive it. And though it wouldn’t be true to say that she didn’t sleep at all – she certainly dozed – she tossed and turned constantly, her mind awash with half-formed memories trawled from the difficult hours that had recently passed, snippets of reality interwoven with fantasies and imaginings. None were in any way relaxing.

‘Why are you so wedded to this awful job, Lucy?’ Tammy asked from the end of the bed, where she stood with a cup of tea clasped in her hands.

Lucy mumbled in response. There was no energy left in her body with which to wake up and tackle this thorny issue. Besides, somewhere deep down, she knew that it wasn’t Tammy; it was her mother.

‘What are you trying to prove? Who are you trying to prove it to? You ride that terrible motorbike, you get shot at for a living. I’m at my wits’ end every day you go on duty.’

Lucy couldn’t respond to that either. In fact, she wouldn’t. They’d had this conversation so often before that it was no longer worth a reply, especially as it was clear that her mother now had other, less admirable reasons for not wanting her daughter to remain a police officer.

Of course, that didn’t stop Cora talking. Mumbling in fact, continually as Lucy tried to sleep. No longer conversing with her daughter as such, but with someone somewhere else in the house – for what seemed like hours.

At first Lucy fancied she was dreaming this too. But gradually, as her room swam properly back into focus, and she squinted at the digital clock on her sideboard and saw that it was now two-thirty in the afternoon, she understood that it was reality; that her mother was discussing matters with someone downstairs. They weren’t talking loudly, but their voices were intense and animated. Whoever the visitor was, it was a man – she could tell that from his masculine tone. The words were inaudible, or so Lucy thought – until she levered herself upright on her one good arm, to listen.

‘So what are we going to do about this, Cora?’ the man asked.

‘At some point she’ll have to listen to me,’ Lucy’s mother replied.

‘Why would she?’ he said. ‘She’s on a mission.’

‘A mission? To do what?’

‘To be the man of the house. What else?’

‘That’s a very sexist point of view.’

‘Oh, for Christ’s sake … with all this crap coming down, you’re giving me PC bullshit!’

And now Lucy realised who was speaking – at last the voice was familiar to her, horribly so – and she could scarcely believe it.

‘There are reasons behind everything everyone does,’ the man said. ‘Would I have got to the top of the tree if I hadn’t been desperate to put my abysmal childhood behind me? Not very likely. She’s grown up with a mum who’s a perfect lady. But she needed some of the other stuff too, to counterbalance … someone who’d raise his voice now and then, who’d throw a punch if the family was threatened. She needed a dad. So now she’s fulfilled that role, herself. She’s opted for the most macho career she could find. And that’s not a criticism, by the way … I think it’s praiseworthy. But it still gives the rest of us a big, big problem.’

Lucy almost tripped in her haste to get downstairs, where she burst into the lounge, kicking the door open so hard that it slammed on the wall, shaking the ornaments in her mother’s display cabinet.

‘What the hell is this maniac doing here?’ she bellowed.

Cora was seated on the couch, hands joined on her lap as though in prayer. On the other side of the room, Frank McCracken – now ‘dressed down’ in a sweater, slacks and deck-shoes, slouched in the armchair. Before Cora could reply, Lucy rounded on the gangster.

‘Get your arse out of here!’ She jabbed a vicious finger at him. ‘Right now, or I’ll beat your sodding brains out!’

McCracken shrugged at Cora. ‘Told you she reminded me of me.’

Cora, suddenly flustered, opened her mouth to reply but nothing came out.

Glaring at her with accusation, Lucy stormed across the room to the front window to see how many goons he had waiting outside. But the terraced street was deserted.

And then, belatedly, his last comment struck home. She turned stiffly back to look at him.

‘What did you say?’

He arched an eyebrow. ‘You mean you haven’t worked it out yet?’


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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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