Extract: No One Home by Tim Weaver
No One Home by Tim Weaver is the latest missing persons thriller starring David Raker. In this gripping page turner, Raker investigates the disappearance of an entire village after a Halloween game of hide and seek.
On Halloween night, the residents of Black Gale gather for a dinner party. As the only nine people living there, they’ve become close friends as well as neighbours. They eat, drink and laugh. They play games and take photographs. Except those photographs will be the last record of any of them. By the next morning, the whole village has vanished.
With no bodies, no evidence and no clues, the mystery of what happened at Black Gale remains unsolved two and a half years on. But then the families of the missing turn to Raker – and their obsession becomes his…
Read on for an extract from No One Home by Tim Weaver!
No One Home
The sign said: Welcome to Black Gale.
It was weather-beaten, rinsed pale over the time that it had stood guard at the gated entrance to the village. Purple crocuses were dotted like jewels along the grass bank it was on, and beyond the sign was a mud track littered with stones, leading to three homes in a semicircle and a farm. The farm itself was modest, surrounded by a crumbling drystone wall dotted with moss and half covered by weeds, which also hemmed in the other homes. But on the other side of the wall, the farm’s fields unfurled across the moors like a huge patchwork quilt.
I’d met Ross Perry just outside Grassington, a market town twenty miles south of Black Gale, and had followed him up here. The further I drove, the higher I climbed, daffodils dotted along the banks of the narrow, one-lane roads. Even in March, though, winter hadn’t quite vanished. As I pulled my Audi in next to Ross’s Range Rover, I looked north, towards the heart of the moors, and could see hills still painted with ribbons of snow.
Ross waited for me next to his vehicle, dressed in a smart black suit and a bright red windbreaker. Stitched into the breast pocket of the windbreaker was CONNOR & PERRY PROPERTY AGENCY | YORKSHIRE. I’d done a little reading up on Ross: he was young, twenty-six, but already the co-owner of a property firm, and one of West Yorkshire’s most eligible bachelors according to a list in a local magazine. He was stocky, dark-haired and olive-skinned, the latter an endowment from his mother, Francesca, who had been born and raised in Florence.
The three houses were all roughly the same size and the same build too – a mix of stone and render, with slate roofs and double garages, and then a U-shaped garden that wrapped around the front and sides of each. They were separated from each other by wooden fences, wild flowers and vines weaving their way through the slats, so that each property maintained a degree of privacy. But the privacy was more of an illusion than anything: the buildings were beautifully constructed – big, four-bedroomed homes – but they were close enough to one another that it would have been almost impossible to live here if you didn’t get on with your neighbours.
The farmhouse fanned out behind one of the houses, a bungalow all on one level. It too was built from stone but it had a thatched roof and was a little less pristine, hay bales randomly, untidily scattered, tractor tyres piled up. There was an overturned animal trough close to the front door and two ruptured water butts. But nothing could quite impair the view: in whatever direction you looked, hills rolled into the distance and the dark spring sky seemed to go on for ever.
‘Which one was your mum and dad’s?’ I asked Ross.
‘That one,’ he said, gesturing to the house closest to us. I’d seen pictures of the house already in the research I’d done, in the police file I’d managed to get hold of as well, but as they all looked the same, I wanted to be sure. ‘They moved in three years ago,’ he added.
‘They were obviously looking for somewhere quiet.’
Ross smiled, but it was sad and seemed hard to form. ‘They loved this part of the world,’ he said softly, his eyes scanning the hills. The nearest village was a mile to the east. In between it was just fields and stone walls. Other houses were dotted further out, like smudges against the morning and, way off into the distance – little more than a few strokes of a brush – was the ashen hint of a town. Chimneys. Roofs. Telegraph poles.
‘Before this,’ I said, ‘they lived near Manchester – is that right?’
‘About twenty miles away, in a village called Denshaw.’
‘They seemed happy there?’
‘They were in the same house for twenty-one years. The house I grew up in.’ He glanced at me. ‘They always seemed happy wherever they were.’
His mouth flattened – an attempt to appear stoic – and then his eyes instantly betrayed him as he looked at their home again. He started to blink a little faster, obviously not wanting to stand here, in front of me, in tears. I saved him any embarrassment by moving past him, closer to the house. At the side I could see a grey Mercedes, parked outside a garage, and then a glimpse of the back garden.
‘How come the car’s still here?’ I asked Ross.
He shrugged. ‘The police did take it away for a while and then – after they’d completed all the tests they needed to do – they gave it back. I know it sounds weird, but I didn’t know what to do with it once they returned it. I didn’t want to drive it, because it would only…’ He stopped. Bring back bad memories. ‘But I didn’t want to sell it on in case Mum and Dad just walked through the front door one day.’
None of that sounded odd. I’d heard something similar, on repeat, in every missing persons case I’d ever worked. The idea that loved ones might suddenly resurface, out of the blue, even after decades, was powerful and impossible to let go of.
I turned back to the house and saw a garden room with skylights and a grey slate roof at the rear, and then somewhere, out of sight, I heard a weathervane move, its gentle squawk like a bird that had injured itself.
‘What about the neighbours?’ I asked. ‘Everybody got on?’
‘Yeah,’ Ross replied, stepping in alongside me again, his composure restored, ‘they got on well. That’s why Mum and Dad loved it here so much. It wasn’t just the house, it was everything. The eight of them – the four couples – they were always getting together as a group. Dinner parties, nights out, pub lunches. I mean, literally the first year they moved in – when I was in Australia for Christmas – they all got together on Boxing Day.’
I looked to my right, down the remainder of the track, past the third house to where the farm was visible. Each of the properties had driveways and two out of the three had cars parked on them. The Perrys had the Mercedes; the people in the second house had a Porsche Cayenne. There was plenty of money up here, and plenty more at the farm: it might have been less pristine than the houses, but as well as a tractor, and all the farm equipment, there was a new Land Rover Defender parked outside.
‘I just don’t understand what happened to them,’ Ross said.
For a moment, as I looked at him, he was perfectly framed, his parents’ house behind him, the grass too long out front, weeds running rampant, the dark windows giving just a hint of the empty hallways within. He told me over the phone that he’d been trying to keep the house together, the lawn mowed, the rooms tidy, but it was hard when even the process of unlocking the front door hurt. His parents had been gone two and a half years, with no answers and no trace.
But they weren’t the only ones.
As I looked again at the other two houses, and then back in the direction of the farm, I saw windows that were just as dark as the Perrys and gardens just as overgrown. That was what made the scale of this case so intimidating.
It wasn’t just the Perrys that had disappeared.
It was the whole village.
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