Today I’m one of two stops on the blog tour for Barbara Copperthwaite’s The Darkest Lies and I’ve got an extract to share with you all. And don’t forget to pop over to Emma at damppebbles.com, my blog tour buddy to catch her post too!
A mother desperate for the truth. A daughter hiding a terrible secret.
Melanie Oak appeared to have the perfect life. Married to her childhood sweetheart, Jacob, the couple live with their beautiful, loving, teenage daughter, Beth, in a pretty village.
Nothing can shake her happiness – until the day that Beth goes missing and is discovered beaten almost to the point of death, her broken body lying in a freezing creek on the marshes near their home.
Consumed with grief, Melanie is determined to find her daughter’s attacker. Someone in the village must have seen something. Why won’t they talk?
As Melanie tries to piece together what happened to Beth, she discovers that her innocent teenager has been harbouring some dark secrets of her own. The truth may lie closer to home and put Melanie’s life in terrible danger…
The people behind the crime, from the perpetrator to the victim and beyond, are what intrigue Barbara Copperthwaite.
She was raised by the sea and in the countryside, where she became a lover of both nature and the written word – the latter leading to a successful career as a journalist. For over twenty years people have kindly and bravely shared with her their real experiences of being victims of crime. Now, through fiction, Barbara continues to explore the emotional repercussions.
The cry for help is ragged and desperate, the voice hitching. There is no one to hear it.
A moon hangs so fat it oozes an aura into the sky that almost blots out the stars surrounding it. It looks down on land as flat as an open palm, and as unforgiving as a clenched fist, and gives no answer to the screams of fear and rage that float up to it.
This is the wind’s playground. It races across the North Sea and hits the land full force. There is nothing to slow it; no hills, few trees or hedges here on land reclaimed from the water to create the marshes and fertile flats of Lincolnshire. It screams ecstatically, punching the handful of houses it comes across, revelling in its unfettered freedom as it rattles windows. On its journey it picks up the entreaties for help that are echoing into the sky. Hurls them across the landscape, as gleeful as a toddler with a toy.
‘Help me! Please! Help!’
There is no one to catch the words.
No one, except a lone figure, turning, walking away towards lights in the far-off distance.
FRIDAY 22 JANUARY
Beth chewed at her thumbnail as she stared at the clothes that were carefully folded in the bottom of the rucksack. Was she doing the right thing? Yes; there’d be no harm done, and no one need ever find out. This was not a big deal. Still she gnawed, worrying at the nail.
The thirteen-year-old suddenly yanked her thumb from her mouth. She must remember not to chew it tonight; it looked as if she was sucking it, like a baby. Tonight, she needed to show that she was grown-up, no longer a little girl.
Right, had she remembered everything? Yep, it looked like it.
It had taken ages to choose both her outfits. One for her parents; one for her secret. She slipped a jumper on and smoothed down the Minnie Mouse picture on the front. It was a firm favourite of her mum’s so it was the obvious choice, even though she didn’t like the childish top herself any more. Everything was perfect for tonight – and her parents would never guess in a million years.
A huge grin on her face, Beth glugged a glass of milk and set it down on her dressing table. Then called out: ‘Mu-um. You ready to go?’
A laugh floated up from downstairs. ‘Isn’t it normally me asking you that?’
Beth hurried downstairs with her rucksack, her dad making the usual joke about ‘a herd of elephants’. She gave him a peck on the cheek and a big hug, which he returned, but peered around her at the television.
‘Ooh, offside,’ he groaned.
‘See you tomorrow.’
‘Have a nice night, Beans.’ He grinned as he used her nickname, but continued watching the football, casting her only a sidelong glance.
Minutes later, Beth and her mum were wrapped in their hats and coats, and striding along with Wiggins by their side. The russet cocker spaniel held his nose high, tail swishing casually from side to side, catching various scents on the cold January air.
‘Hey, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could smell things the way Wiggins does? We could follow scent trails!’ Beth said.
She linked arms with her mum as they took the left-hand lane from the village crossroads on which they lived, towards the home of Beth’s best friend, Chloe.
‘Like a superhero? You could be called Dog Girl,’ her mum joked.
Beth wrinkled her nose. ‘Yeah, on second thoughts… The name’s not great, is it?’
‘What other superpowers would Dog Girl have?’
‘Well, okay, she could take all sorts of things from nature. Like, she could have echo-location, like a bat, so she could find her way in the dark. That’d be handy now!’
‘What are you up to with Chloe tonight, anyway? Pamper night? Watching a film?’
‘Yeah, we’ll probably watch a film. Not sure about the pampering – Chloe might not have any face packs.’
‘We could nip back and get some. There’s a couple in the bathroom cabinet.’
‘No. It’s fine. We’ll probably watch a film and eat a lot of chocolate.’
‘Want some money for a pizza? It’s a Friday night, you might as well treat yourselves.’
Her mum stopped abruptly, waving the tenner at the sky before handing it over. ‘Look how big the moon is tonight.’
‘Is it a supermoon?’ Beth asked, gazing upward too. There had been one a few months earlier, and her dad had told her about how it was special, being closer to the earth and bringing bigger tides. That had been really cool.
‘Don’t think so, but it’s beautiful, isn’t it?’
She nodded. ‘I can see the man in the moon ever so clearly.’
Given that they had stopped, it seemed as good a time as any to try…
‘So, I might as well walk the rest of the way alone.’
‘No, I’ll walk you to the door. It’s dark, Beth.’
She gave her mum her very best puppy dog eyes look. If the plan were to work, her mum couldn’t take her to Chloe’s house. Despite her parents thinking she’d be spending the night there, she had no intention of setting foot inside the place.
‘I’m a teenager. I’m not a baby. Pur-lease, Mum!’
After a second or two, there came a reluctant nod. ‘Be careful.’
‘I love you to bits and whole again,’ Mum added.
Beth felt her nose prickle with guilty tears. They had been saying that to each other since she was about four. She remembered it vividly, being cuddled on her mum’s lap; her feet tucked under Dad’s legs to keep them extra toasty warm. One hand twirling a piece of hair round and round and round her fingers as Dad read to them. She’d loved to hear the sound of his voice, but no matter how hard she’d fought, her eyelids had grown heavier and heavier and…
The sensation of weightlessness had woken her, as Dad carried her upstairs. When he’d tucked her in, he had stroked her face and kissed her forehead.
‘Sleep tight, Beans. I love you to the moon and back,’ he had murmured.
Beth had stirred sleepily. ‘To the moon? That’s a really, really, really long way.’
‘It is, but I love you so much that it would easily stretch all the way there and back again – and more.’
The next day her mum had walked her across the road to school, holding her hand. As Beth slipped from her grasp, her mum had pulled her back, into a bear hug.
‘Love you to bits,’ she’d whispered.
Beth had paused in her squirming. ‘To bits and back?’ she’d checked.
Her mum had laughed. ‘Er, yes, I suppose. To bits and whole again.’
Ever since, that saying had stuck. Hearing her mum use it now, Beth wanted to call a halt to her plan. To throw her arms around her and confess everything. She wanted to go home. She wanted to curl up and watch telly with Mum and Dad, while Wiggins did sneaky trumps that they all tried to blame on each other, laughing, even though they knew it was the dog. She wanted to tell her mum she’d love her forever and ever and ever, to bits and whole again.
Instead, she grinned cheekily, turned and skipped away like a little girl. Taking the mickey was easier than trying to articulate all of those feelings.
The wind plucked at her ponytail as she flew from sparse light pool to light pool between lamp posts until they ran out completely. The darkness swallowed her. Ahead she could feel her fate waiting for her and she rushed towards it eagerly. Tonight was going to be a big night.
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