Extract: The Chalk Man by C J Tudor
Looking back, it all started on the day of the fair and the terrible accident. When twelve-year-old Eddie first met the Chalk Man. It was the Chalk Man who gave Eddie the idea for the drawings: a way to leave secret messages between his group of friends. And it was fun, to start with, until the figures led them to the body of a young girl.
That was thirty years ago and Ed thought the past was behind him. Then he receives a letter containing just two things: a piece of chalk, and a drawing of a stick figure.
As history begins to repeat itself, Ed realises the game was never over. Everyone has secrets. Everyone is guilty of something. And children are not always so innocent.
Read on for an extract from The Chalk Man!
The Chalk Man
C J Tudor
The girl’s head rested on a small pile of orange-and-brown leaves.
Her almond eyes stared up at the canopy of sycamore, beech and oak, but they didn’t see the tentative fingers of sunlight that poked through the branches and sprinkled the woodland floor with gold. They didn’t blink as shiny black beetles scurried over their pupils. They didn’t see anything any more, except darkness.
A short distance away, a pale hand stretched out from its own small shroud of leaves as if searching for help, or reassurance that it was not alone. None was to be found. The rest of her body lay out of reach, hidden in other secluded spots around the woods.
Close by, a twig snapped, loud as a firecracker in the stillness, and a flurry of birds exploded out of the undergrowth. Someone approached.
They knelt down beside the unseeing girl. Their hands gently caressed her hair and stroked her cold cheek, fingers trembling with anticipation. Then they lifted up her head, dusted off a few leaves that clung to the ragged edges of her neck, and placed it carefully in a bag, where it nestled among a few broken stubs of chalk.
After a moment’s consideration, they reached in and closed her eyes. Then they zipped the bag shut, stood up and carried it away.
Some hours later, police officers and the forensic team arrived. They numbered, photographed, examined and eventually took the girl’s body to the morgue, where it lay for several weeks, as if awaiting completion.
It never came. There were extensive searches, questions and appeals but, despite the best efforts of all the detectives and all the town’s men, her head was never found, and the girl in the woods was never put together again.
Start at the beginning.
The problem was, none of us ever agreed on the exact beginning. Was it when Fat Gav got the bucket of chalks for his birthday? Was it when we started drawing the chalk figures or when they started to appear on their own? Was it the terrible accident? Or when they found the first body?
Any number of beginnings. Any of them, I guess, you could call the start. But really, I think it all began on the day of the fair. That’s the day I remember most. Because of Waltzer Girl, obviously, but also because it was the day that everything stopped being normal.
If our world was a snow globe, it was the day some casual god came along, shook it hard and set it back down again. Even when the foam and flakes had settled, things weren’t the way they were before. Not exactly. They might have looked the same through the glass but, on the inside, everything was different.
That was also the day I first met Mr Halloran, so, as beginnings go, I suppose it’s as good as any.