From the Shadows by G R Halliday is a stunning, atmospheric police procedural set against the grit of Inverness and the raw beauty of the Scottish Highlands. This is the first book in the DI Monica Kennedy series.
Sixteen-year-old Robert arrives home late. Without a word to his dad, he goes up to his bedroom. Robert is never seen alive again.
A body is soon found on the coast of the Scottish Highlands. Detective Inspector Monica Kennedy stands by the victim in this starkly beautiful and remote landscape. Instinct tells her the case won’t begin and end with this one death.
Meanwhile, Inverness-based social worker Michael Bach is worried about one of his clients whose last correspondence was a single ambiguous text message; Nichol Morgan has been missing for seven days.
As Monica is faced with catching a murderer who has been meticulously watching and waiting, Michael keeps searching for Nichol, desperate to find him before the killer claims another victim.
Read on for an extract from From the Shadows by G R Halliday!
From the Shadows
G R Halliday
The first autumn stars had appeared in the black sky above the Wester Ross mountain, but Robert didn’t notice them. He didn’t look up once as he wheeled his bike into the dark garage, swung the door closed and ran shivering towards the light at the front of the house. But the other person, the one who was watching from the shadows among the trees, did notice those stars. And knew immediately that they were a sign.
Robert hesitated on the doorstep then reached to his pocket for the mobile phone again. He knew he should wait, but the need to read back over the messages was desperate.
Were the messages really from his mum? It didn’t make sense. And the phone. Taped to the handlebars of his mountain bike that morning when he’d left for school. That didn’t make sense either. But then nothing seemed to make sense since she’d gone. It was like everything had tilted off by a degree. Robert touched the dark denim material of his pocket. Compulsively checking that the phone was still safe. He pulled his hand away, resisting the urge to read the messages again. He knew his dad would be listening out and he’d only try to interfere. Besides, it was Dad’s fault she’d left anyway, wasn’t it? He must have upset her somehow. He must have done something bad to make her leave.
Robert pushed at the front door. Unlocked, as it had been for weeks. Dad was still hoping she’d come back. He still thinks she might want him. There was a sound from inside, a soft shift of body against old sofa. He could picture his father craning his neck, hoping.
‘It’s me,’ Robert shouted, one hand on the bannister.
‘I thought you were coming straight home from school?’ Even Dad’s voice sounded weak now. Weak and pathetic. ‘You’re only sixteen. I told you to call so I know you’re safe.’
‘Yeah, well I didn’t. Get over it.’ Of course he’s weak. Why else would Mum have left if he wasn’t? Even as Robert thought this, he was swallowed up by horror as the alternative explanation came swimming up from his stomach: She left because of you.
He squeezed the phone in his pocket. This was proof. She had asked to meet him. Why would she do that if she’d left because of him? But his mother never called him Robert. Always Robbie, or Rob. So why would she change that now? He ran a hand over his short dark hair. He should speak to his dad, let him read what she had sent. Maybe she’s had… Robert searched around for the right words. A breakdown, depression.
He seized on the idea, a trace of light in the dark. That would explain it all. Why she left, the strange messages. She was probably ashamed, worried what they would think of her. Robert pictured himself gently putting his hand on her face. It’s OK, Mum, we’re here for you. He turned towards the living room, then stopped as he caught the stifled sound coming from the room. A strange new fear joined the constant ache in his stomach as he realised it was the sound of his father crying. He turned back and went quietly up the stairs.
Robert opened the door to his bedroom at the top of the stairs. A confusion of feelings churned in his stomach. Like he was old and worn down, young and powerless, all at the same time.
As he stepped into the room he caught the faint edge of a smell. Was it a perfume? From his mum? Robert shook his head at the idea – that was called wishful thinking. He turned as their dog came padding along the corridor. Ellie was an ageing Scottish deerhound with shaggy grey hair that hung down over her eyes. She nuzzled at Robert’s leg then pushed past into the room. He ran a hand through her soft fur and watched as she lunged awkwardly onto his bed. Slowly rotating her long spiny body in a circle before collapsing on the bedspread.
Robert nudged the door until it caught on the carpet, then dropped his bag on the floor. There was homework to do. Exam preparation. He looked at the neglected study timetable pinned on the wall at the far end of the room. Before she’d gone he’d craved knowledge. He’d soaked up all the information he could use to get the hell out of Wester Ross. Tourists came to the north-west Highlands of Scotland and especially this area to go walking in the mountains. To visit the beaches. Robert had even heard of people coming to watch the stars and planets in the dark skies, far from any street lights. But just try living in a lonely glen in the middle of nowhere. He shook his head again, still looking at the study timetable. Now his mind was so filled with his mum there wasn’t any room left to care for much else.
At his desk, his fingers moved to his pocket again. He stopped when he noticed a mug sitting by his darkened lamp. It was Dad’s favourite mug, the white one with an old DIG FOR PLENTY logo on it.
He leaned over and clicked on the lamp, the phone momentarily forgotten. The mug was still warm. Hot chocolate. His favourite. Guilt bubbled in his stomach. This was Dad’s way of showing that he understood, that he felt the same way. Robert took a mouthful of the thick, sweet liquid. And another. It hugged all his senses as he curled up on the bed beside Ellie. Her fur was calming against the bare flesh of his arm. He heard the low sound of the television from downstairs. It was comforting somehow, despite everything.
Ellie whined and tilted her head. Robert followed the dog’s gaze towards the shadows at the end of the room, the window. The darkness almost seemed to stare back at him. He shivered at the idea and pulled the strange phone out from his pocket. He hesitated, then started typing before he could stop himself: ‘I’d like to see you. When can we meet?’ Send.
He dropped the phone onto the bed and ran his hand over Ellie’s head. Over the fine fluff on her ears. He took in that distinctive smell she had, like warmth and security distilled. He stared at the fur above her eyes, blinked. Each strand of fur seemed to stand out, bright. He blinked for a second time. This time the dog almost seemed to blur in front of him.
She whined again. Suddenly she uncurled her body, jumped off the bed and moved stiffly to the window. She turned and caught his gaze, the whites of her eyes bigger than usual. She started to paw at the pile of his washing heaped beneath the windowsill.
‘What is it, Ellie?’
Robert heard the slur in his own voice, felt saliva run down his chin. He reached a hand up to wipe his mouth, but his arm wouldn’t respond. A tide of panic washed over him. He tried to sit up on the bed, but he couldn’t move.
But the sound that came from his mouth was a whisper. He tried to stand up again. He experienced a moment of pure horror when he found that he couldn’t even turn his neck or raise a finger.
‘Dad. Please, help me,’ he tried to shout. But the words lay dead in his throat.
All the hurtful things he’d said to his father.
The noise from the television died. Robert heard a click. His father was switching off the lights in the living room, in the downstairs hall.
Ellie barked. The lips around her yellowing canine teeth were trembling. Robert caught the faint edge of that smell again. He tried to swallow and felt the saliva run down his throat. A thick sweet taste, but with something else underneath it. A hint of bitterness. He tried to swallow again. Nothing. Could he breathe? His lungs felt tight, and panic set in.
Dad. Please! Help me.
Then there was the sound of his father’s footsteps on the stairs. The familiar creak from the floorboard as he paused at the top, just outside Robert’s bedroom. The door opened.
That old comfort against all the fears. The dark, the monsters.
‘Rob.’ It was his dad’s voice coming from the doorway. ‘I’m sorry – about everything, with Mum. You know you can speak to me…’
Please help me, Dad. But the words were locked in Robert’s throat and his back was facing the door so his father couldn’t see his face.
‘We can speak tomorrow.’ His father sounded too broken and sad to seek a response from his son. ‘Come, Ellie, down to bed.’
The dog whined, barked again. She wouldn’t move.
Look at me, Dad. Please, look at me!
Robert heard his father take a step closer. ‘Ellie. Come on.’ His voice was louder, commanding. Reluctantly the dog turned from the window, obedient to her master. She paused at the foot of Robert’s bed, whining, then passed from his sight.
Robert screamed and screamed.
But the noises never made it out of his mouth. He heard the door click shut, his father’s footsteps fading down the corridor.
He stared into the dark at the end of the room. The taste of bitter hot chocolate burning in the saliva pooling around his tongue. That faint smell of perfume, lingering. He stared, unable to move as his eyes slowly adjusted to the low light.
There was a long moment of silence in the house. Then suddenly the phone buzzed on the bed beside him. But Robert couldn’t move to read it. With his head locked into place, he forced his eyes as far left as they would go and saw one word appear on the screen: ‘Now.’
The message was followed by a sound from the corner of the room by the window, where the curtain hung down to the floor. It was the sound of someone breathing heavily – sucking in deep lungfuls of air.
Then the soft shift of fabric sliding across carpet as the curtain began to move.
Robert stared into the dark. And a pale white face smiled back at him.
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