By way of teaser – 1st two chapters.
CHAPTER ONE TURN BACK THE HANDS OF TIME
Charity Parsons was eighteen years old. Since the death of her dad, there was just her, her mum, and younger brother Jack left. They all shared a former workmen's cottage on Cuckoo Tree Lane, Failsham, Hoven, along from the churchyard where her dad was buried.
Charity was in her kitchen beside the phone. Although the caller had hung up, she still held the receiver. After a bit, she replaced it gently, relit the roll up in her hands, and inhaled. On the kitchen wall a clock ticked loudly. She looked up at it. Her mother had brought it back from the Costa Del Sol. Its grinning face, with one winking eye, was surrounded by bright yellow plastic sunbeams. "It'll put a smile on my face whenever I look up," her mum had said, a week before the consultant announced the cancer was back.
Charity squeezed her cigarette between her fingers to put it out and stubbed the remains in the ashtray on the kitchen table. Standing on a stool, she took the clock down, removed its batteries, turned its hands back thirty-five minutes, then placed it face down in a kitchen drawer, which she closed. There was nothing else to do now but wait. This she did, sitting at her kitchen table, smoking her rollups, until the familiar scraping open of the back gate told her Jack was back from school. She heard him marching along the path and went outside to greet him. He saw her, and the look on her face, and stopped halfway down the path, his bag falling from his shoulders. She rushed to him and took him in her arms, pushing his head into her chest.
"I wanted to be there," he said through his tears, his young body convulsing.
"So did I, love," she said, through hers. "So did I."
CHAPTER TWO DANNY GRADY
Rows of electric fencing, spotlights, gates, and a long steep drive, up a long steep hill, kept the inmates of Southstoft Prison safely away from the residents of the ancient cathedral city of Southstoft, on which the prison peered down.
That morning, from somewhere within the electric fences, spotlights and gates, a prison guard checked his list. "Okay, Grady – on your way," he said, handing the prisoner his designer shades. Danny Grady, a stocky, red-headed young man of nearly twenty-three, snatched the sunglasses. He gave the guard the disdainful look used by prisoners worldwide upon leaving prison, and stepped through the door to freedom, or rather to a courtyard, across which another door and another courtyard led eventually to a gate, and from there to freedom. Even though the morning was cloudy he put his shades on, and left Southstoft Prison with a swagger.
On a quiet backstreet to the rear of the prison complex, he looked around. A girl perching on the bonnet of red Jaguar with number plates DAN1, gave a squeal when she saw him and jumped down. It was his girlfriend, Melissa Paine. He quickly walked over to her and she slowly unbuttoned her coat. Seeing children waiting for their dads made her keep the coat on, but she managed to give Danny a quick flash, revealing nothing but black underwear underneath. She wondered why she'd bothered. She had expected a passionate embrace, but her boyfriend barely glanced in her direction. When she opened her arms, expecting a kiss, he removed his glasses and looked up and down the street.
"Where's Poole?" he asked.
"How the hell do I know?" Melissa said, buttoning up and re-buckling her coat.
"I told him to be here."
"Poole your girlfriend now?"
He snatched the car keys from her hand and marched over to the driver's seat. "Where's my phone?"
"In the glove compartment," she replied, climbing into the passenger seat. "I'm fine, by the way. Thanks for asking."
He found the phone and made a call, swearing when it was diverted to voicemail. "It's Grady – call me," he ordered, and ended the call. This he followed up by a text: "Where r u?"
"Aren't you even going to kiss me?" Melissa asked.
He relaxed and pulled her towards him and kissed her. "Okay now?"
"Not really, Danny," she said. "But I love you." She started unbuttoning her coat again, but he brushed her way.
"Let's get home," he said.
"Since when did you get so shy?" she said, as he drove off at break-neck speed.
Danny Grady screeched to a stop outside the apartment block where the young couple lived, almost causing a car to back end them. "You go in. I'll park," he said over the sound of the driver behind furiously sounding his horn.
"That's more like it," Melissa Paine said, allowing her coat to fall open.
He kissed the top of her head. She gave a little giggle and jumped out of the car. The car was facing the right direction for the garage turning. Expecting him to drive past, she opened her coat, but he did a U-turn in the middle of the busy road and screeched away in the opposite direction.
"Where the hell are you going?" she yelled. But he was already lost in the traffic. She clutched her coat around her.
"What are you looking at?" she snarled at the elderly gentleman she'd ended up flashing her underwear at. She stormed inside, calling her boyfriend from the lift. "Danny! When I get my hands on you!"