Extract: She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge
On a hot July night in 1983, seven school friends go camping in the forest. They are destined for great things, and young Aurora Jackson is dazzled to be allowed to tag along.
Thirty years later, a body is discovered. DCI Sheens is called to the scene, but he already knows what’s waiting for him: Aurora Jackson, found at long last.
But that’s not all. The friends have all maintained their innocence, but the body is found in a hideaway only the six of them knew about. It seems the killer has always lurked very close to home…
She Lies in Wait
It was a strange feeling to be writing case notes based on intelligence when Jonah knew all of this himself. He knew the people he was writing about, too, though not well enough to help him.
Though this group and occasional others had used the area to camp in before, it was not an official site and was accessed through the woods by a winding, unclear path.
He didn’t need to read the notes to help him describe the place. He hadn’t even needed to see the site again. He had memories of tramping the same paths over and over in a search that had only widened in the tiniest increments. He remembered, too, his strange optimism that he would find somewhere that nobody else had looked. It had turned into a desperate sort of determination and had driven him to carry on the search during his leave, and long into the night when he should have gone off-duty.
The summary of events was simple, yet strange.
Seven adolescents had gone camping just after the end of term. Three of them had been fifteen, two sixteen, one eighteen and one – Aurora – just fourteen. None of them had turned in until midnight, and Aurora had gone first. She had taken her sleeping mat a little way from the campsite to avoid being disturbed by the others, who had been drinking and were talking and laughing loudly. She had been well outside the ring of light cast by the fire, and invisible to them.
The others had gone to bed later in dribs and drabs. They thought they had seen Aurora still in her sleeping bag, but none of them were quite sure. They had heard nothing to indicate any violence.
When early morning came, Connor Dooley, fifteen, had woken up thirsty, and gone to get himself some water. He found Aurora’s sleeping bag empty, and guessed she had gone to find a quiet spot to relieve herself. But after some time, he became concerned, and on investigating the sleeping bag found that it was cold and dewy on the inside.
Connor woke the missing girl’s sister, Topaz Jackson, fifteen. A search ensued that gradually brought in all six of the remaining teenagers. After half an hour, Daniel Benham, sixteen, stated that he would cycle to Lyndhurst to raise the alarm. The one driver, Brett Parker, eighteen, was still intoxicated. He and the other five continued searching while Daniel cycled to Lyndhurst.
Local police logged a call from Daniel Benham at 07:09, after he discovered Lyndhurst police station to be closed and knocked on an adjacent door to use the phone. A squad car arrived at 07:48. By 09:17, a full search team had arrived and the nearby community was alerted shortly afterwards. The active search went on for almost two weeks, with more and more of the nation becoming alerted.
Like so many stories of beautiful young girls snatched away, it became a rallying call and a subject of huge speculation. Hours and hours of television and reams of paper were devoted to her.
And then, gradually, the story became old, and tired. Thirty years passed, and Aurora was never found.
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