Wednesday, 25 May 2016

First chapter of The Wrong Kind of Clouds (part 2)

The Wrong Kind of Clouds cover

I am releasing the first chapter of The Wrong Kind of Clouds this week. Part 1 was yesterday. Here's part 2. Hope you all enjoy it!

*********

Tuesday Morning


Summer Morris stared at the phone, blinking, rain dribbling off her hat and down her neck. For some time now, she wouldn’t have pissed on Patrick if he was on fire. Why the hell had he called her?

She tipped her head back, glared at the clouds and sighed heavily. Her short nails clicked over the keys on her phone to call him back as her emotions kaleidoscoped with colours she hadn’t felt for months, before fracturing into the hue of a day-old bruise. She recognised the colour as apprehension.

‘Hello! You have reached the mobile for Patrick Forrester. I am either already on a call or unavailable right now, so please leave me a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.’

She sucked in a quick, impatient breath.

‘Patrick? What the hell’s happening? Are you okay? It’s Summer. Call me back.’

She hung up and clutched the phone in one hand, wrapping her other arm around herself as she sat on the waterproof rug, drawing her knees up to her chin.

‘Call me back, you bastard. This had better be some kind of prank.’

It hadn’t sounded like a prank. It had sounded horribly like something violent had just happened to Patrick. Summer stared at the rolling hills and glittering loch arranged before her, drumming her fingertips against her knee, for once oblivious to the beauty of her surroundings. She uncoiled long, muscular legs, rearranging them impatiently next to her tripod and camera. The mizzle wormed its way under her collar; the clammy grass was starting to breach the edges of the square she was sitting on.

‘I really don’t have time for your games, Patrick,’ she muttered, shrugging her shoulders to dislodge the damp.

Her thoughts ran back over the phone call. Was it a game? Was it real? If it was real, what the hell was she expected to do? Why call her? Why not call the police?

Why call her?

Summer scrabbled in her camera bag to retrieve the notebook she kept there. She balanced it on her knee, pulled the top off a pen with her teeth, and started to transcribe what she had heard, working quickly. A muffled voice. Speaking English or a foreign language? Not sure. She closed her eyes, screwing her face up as she concentrated. A train in the background? Traffic noises? A train. Yes, definitely a train. The other voice… male, deep, no more than one? What were Patrick’s words, his tone, his emotions? What had happened? Had he been hit? Was that last sound his phone being destroyed or was it something horrible happening to Patrick? She wrote as swiftly as she could, trying to capture everything while it was fresh and raw, and then leaned back and reviewed the notes. Should she call the police? Her guts twisted at the thought. What could she tell them if she did? Where was Patrick when he made the call? She closed her eyes, listening to it again in her head. His flat was near a train line. The noise had kept her awake at nights. A million places were by a train line. He could be anywhere.

Why had he called her?

The signal strength on her mobile flickered between two bars and none. It was amazing he’d even managed to reach her. She clicked keys again on her phone, finding the number for the police, a slick of sweat forming on her skin despite the cold April air. She didn’t want to talk to the police, certainly not over a shit like Patrick. Too many bad experiences. Too much brainwashing from her parents. She stared at the number, not even starting to rehearse words for a call she wasn’t sure she could make, but a sickening uneasiness suffused her with the colour of marigolds and would not go away, keeping her from tossing the phone back into her bag. She wondered how people without synaesthesia knew when to trust their feelings.

She dialled slowly, the notebook open on her knee, her insides churning, hanging up twice before finally allowing the call to connect.

‘Fife Constabulary.’

She swallowed, her mouth dry.

‘Oh, hello. Er, my name is Summer Morris and I don’t really know who I should talk to, but I think something bad has happened to someone.’

‘Just one moment please.’

She waited. How should she describe Patrick? Could she in all honesty describe him as a friend? It’s not how he would describe her. Why had he called her and not someone else? When they put her name and his into the system, would their history flash up on the screen?

She almost hung up, but the line clicked.

‘PC Mark Collins. How can I help?’

‘Oh hello. I had a very peculiar phone call from someone just now and it sounded like he was being attacked.’

‘Just now?’

‘Yes.’

‘Right. Could you tell me what happened?’

She explained the mysterious call, giving PC Collins Patrick’s mobile number and all the details she could remember.

‘Do you know where he was when he made the call?’ Collins asked.

Summer could hear the impatience in his voice. Her mind ran back over the background sounds and she glanced at the notes she had made.

‘Not for sure, but it could well have been his flat. Or near his flat.’

‘Which is where?’

‘Edinburgh.’

She gave him the address.

‘That’s not our jurisdiction,’ he said, and she could hear relief flood his voice. ‘But I will pass all this information on to them. Thank you for calling.’

‘Er… is there a case number?’ she asked, recognising a brush-off. ‘If I wanted to call and ask about this, what reference would I give, please?’

There was an audible sigh on the line before the officer gave her a number.

‘But in all likelihood, Ms Morris, it will be nothing.’

‘It didn’t sound like nothing. I’d appreciate it if you could keep me up to date, please.’

Another sigh on the line.

‘It’s not our jurisdiction but we’ll do our best. Thank you for calling.’

He hung up, leaving Summer with dead air. She dialled Patrick’s mobile again, ending the call as soon as his voicemail message started, and then called his home number, only to hear his answerphone message. She clicked on end call.

Turning her collar against the persistent drizzle, she stared at her scuffed boots. The police would be able to do something. That was their job. Surely she had done everything she could? What more could Patrick reasonably expect?

Especially of her.

She started to stow her camera and tripod, preparing to hack back down the hillside to her beaten-up Land Rover, parked below at the end of a stony track. The green of the hillside was so intense it almost hurt to look at it, but uniform grey clouds had rolled in and looked settled for the day, and anyway, her mood was shattered. She would take no pictures worth a damn now.

She tucked her notebook into the top of the bag, frustration flooding her head with ochre.

‘Jesus!’ she exclaimed, tugging the zip shut. ‘What more could I have done?’

Her cries disturbed some small birds in the grass and she watched them fly upwards. Her call to the police had been utterly futile.

**********

Part 3 is here

The Wrong Kind of Clouds is published on 28th May 2016

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The Wrong Kind of Clouds