Looking quickly around the signal box, just to make sure that he wasn’t slumped somewhere in a darkened corner, I double-checked - he wasn’t there. Once I was certain, I eased open the signal box door, stepped out, and closed it behind me. The sun was setting over the mountains, casting a thin ribbon of pink across the evening sky. Climbing down the rickety old steps that led from the signal box, I stepped onto the disused railway tracks. Looking ahead, I could see the tracks winding up into the hills for as far as I could see. Turning around, I saw the grey, chalky boot prints on the sleepers where Murphy had headed off in the opposite direction.
Keeping off the tracks, my footsteps were just too loud as they crunched over the chalky-coloured ballast, I walked in the cess and headed in the direction that Murphy had obviously taken. I hadn’t gone far, when I noticed that some of the thickest undergrowth on the embankment had been broken and trampled over. Knowing that this was where Murphy had left the railway tracks, I clawed and pulled my way to the top of the embankment. Reaching the top, I kept low and scanned the horizon for any sign off Murphy. As I crouched amongst the thorns and thistles, I wondered why Murphy had slunk away while we’d been sleeping. I knew that he hadn’t simply gone for a leak – he had come too far just for that – and knowing most men were quite happy to take a whiz anywhere that suited them, I knew that there must be another reason for his sudden disappearance.
Peeling back the undergrowth, I inched my way forward. On the other side of the embankment, I could see a dilapidated outhouse of some kind and just off to the other side of it were the remains of a gutted farmhouse. All that was remaining were three granite stone walls and part of a black-slated roof. Then, from within the remains of the farmhouse, I saw movement. Ducking low, I peered through the undergrowth and could just make out the shadow of a person moving around inside – no – there were two shadows.
Sitting on my bum, I worked my way down the steep embankment. At the bottom, I bent low and raced across the field to the ruined outhouse. Hiding in the broken down doorway, I peered around the doorframe to get a better look at who was in there.
Screwing-up my eyes, I gasped as I saw Murphy pass by one of the empty window frames set into one of the granite stone walls. I could barely see him, as the sun had dipped so low behind the mountains, it was almost dark. And although I could see well enough at night, much of Murphy was hidden by the wall. Then I saw the second shadow move towards Murphy and it was long and black. The shadow seemed too long as if it had been stretched; either that or the person it belonged to was a giant.
From my hiding place, I watched the black silhouette of the second person pass by the empty window. And I’d been right, whoever it had been was a giant. As Murphy had passed the window, I had been able to see his head and shoulders, but when the second person had passed by it, I had only been able to see the upper part of their chest. Murphy was at least six feet tall, so whoever the second person was must have put them at about seven feet tall. They disappeared from my view and all I could see was their shadows cast across the grass and weeds that grew around the remains of the building.
They were too far away for me to hear what they were talking about and I wished that I had Kayla with me, so she could listen in on their conversation. I wanted to move closer, but I feared that I might be seen. So, crouching low in the doorway of the outhouse, I watched their shadows. I could tell their conversation was sometimes heated, as I could see the shadows of their arms gesticulating up and down as they spoke together. This went on for some time, then I saw the taller shadow hand Murphy something, which he took and stuffed into his trouser pocket.
Murphy’s face appeared in the empty window and he looked out across the field as if checking that they weren’t being watched. Jumping backwards into the outhouse so as not to be seen, I felt someone take hold of me and pull me inside.
“Get off me!” I hissed, lashing out at whomever it was that had grabbed me.
“Easy, tiger,” Potter whispered back. “You shouldn’t be out here on your own. It’s not safe.”
With his arms snaked around my waist, I tried to pull away. “You can let go of me now,” I told him. But he didn’t, instead bringing his face in closer to mine. In the gloom, and I could see his eyes shining.
“You don’t really mean that,” he whispered and I could feel his warm breath against my neck. Gooseflesh ran over my skin.
“Yes, I do,” I said, but I knew I didn’t sound convincing and I hated myself for it.
“Why?” he breathed.
“Because you’re dangerous,” I told him, feeling his arms tighten, as he pressed himself against me.
“You like dangerous,” he said, bringing his mouth closer to mine.
“No, I don’t,” I whispered back, a strange sense of excitement racing through me.
“Yeah, you do,” he said, “or you wouldn’t be here now.” Then, leaning into me, he covered my lips with his. His stubble felt rough against my face as did his hands that worked their way around the back of my neck so he could pull me even closer against him.
My heart raced in my chest and the urge to just give into him was suddenly so overpowering that it made me feel dizzy. Then, knowing in my heart that what was happening was wrong, I pulled my lips from his, and pushed him gently away.
“I can’t,” I whispered. “I just can’t.”
“Why?” he asked, and he didn’t sound angry – just confused.
“Why do you think?” I said, doing my best to not look at him.
“What about what happened in the gatehouse?” he asked, coming close again, close enough so I could feel him brushing against me.
“That was a mistake and you know it,” I told him, trying to make my voice sound as hard and indifferent as possible – but I knew that it wasn’t working.
“What about the summerhouse?” he reminded me. “Was that a mistake, too?”
“I thought I was going to die,” I said, then realising how bad that must have sounded to him, I tried to take it back. “Look, I didn’t -”
“Just forget it, Kiera,” he said, moving away from me.
“It’s just that I have feelings for Luke,” I tried to explain.Looking back at me, he lit a cigarette, and said, “But he’s so boring, don’t you think?”
“That’s your friend,” I reminded him.
“I know,” he said, shaking his head. “I didn’t mean that.”
“What did you mean then?” I asked him, wrapping my arms around me.
“Nothing,” he half-smiled.
Taking a step closer to him, I said, “Who was it, Potter?”
“Who was what?” he said, looking back at me over the glow of his cigarette.
“Whoever it was that hurt you?” I said.
“Why must I have been hurt, for crying-out-loud,” he snapped, pitching out his cigarette.
“It’s just that I thought…” I started.
“Well you thought wrong, sweet-cheeks,” he almost seemed to growl as he came towards me. “I never let anyone close enough to hurt me…but you should watch your back.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I said, watching him head for the broken-in doorway.
“Isidor,” he said looking back at me. “I wouldn’t trust him as long as I’ve got a hole in my arse.”
“Why not?” I said feeling suddenly bewildered.
“Think yourself a great detective do you?” Potter said, now almost seeming to gloat. “Don’t you think it’s a bit odd that since wonder-boy appeared on the scene those vampires seemed to know every move that we make?”
“Well, erm…” I couldn’t believe what he was trying to suggest about Isidor.
Then coming so close as if to kiss me again, Potter said, “Don’t you think it’s just an incy-bitzy bit of a coincidence that he showed up just moments after Kayla was snatched by Phillips? He then completely wiped out all of those vampires, then confessed to knowing the person – your mate, Sparky – who then murdered all those half-breed children, killed the old woman, and took Doc Ravenwood.’
“But,” I started.
“Think about it, Colombo,” he said, “I don’t think Murphy trusts him, either.” Then gently kissing me on the mouth again, he turned, left the outhouse and disappeared into the darkness.
No, it’s you that Murphy doesn’t trust, I thought, reminding myself of the conversation I’d overheard between them. Then, making sure that I couldn’t be seen by Murphy and the giant, I made my way back to the signal box.
I arrived back at the signal box to find Luke awake. He was sitting with his back against the far wall. Isidor was still asleep on the floor, and Potter sat away from them, staring at me from within the darkness.
“Where did you get to?” Luke asked me as I closed the signal box door behind me.
Snatching a sideways glance at Potter then back at Luke, I lied and said, “I just needed a leg stretch.”
Then, holding out a hand towards me he said, “Are you okay? You look kinda…”
“I’m just tired,” I said, taking his hand and sitting beside him on the dusty floorboards. “I didn’t sleep too well.”
“Nightmares?” he asked, leaning forward and kissing me on the forehead. I could see his concern for me and I hated myself.
“Want to talk about it?”
“No, I’m okay,” I half-smiled. “Maybe later.”
Then the door to the signal box swung open and Murphy stepped inside with that lopsided walk of his. “Pack up, we’re leaving,” he almost seemed to bark at us. That same gritty determination I’d sensed in him since the death of his daughters, now almost seeping from him.
Dusting down his trousers, Potter stood and said, “Sarge, you’ve led us across pretty much all of England over the last few weeks and we’ve followed you without question – but where are you taking us? Aren’t we meant to be finding Kayla?”