For one blissful moment Janine Morris had let herself be convinced that they might manage a day in the house without something inexplicable happening. After all, it wasn’t too much to ask for surely. As it turned out she was wholly incorrect.
She was busying herself in the kitchen, preparing lunch for her, Joe and Emma, the sound of over-the-top cartoons on the air and the kitchen counter piled with sandwiches and condiments. The scream shattered the peace and her nerves instantly, and in a heartbeat Janine was on edge. She leant against the counter, eyes closed to ready herself. Hadn’t enough happened already? Didn’t she deserve one moment of peace? If it wasn’t the kids claiming a shadow man was following them or reporting of voices in the walls it was bickering and pinching. The whole family was wound tight but the children were really starting to drive her crazy. She flinched when the scream came again.
“Shut up Emma, I’m watching Turtles!” Joe bellowed from the sitting room as a third shrill cry came from the other side of the house. Janine admonished herself for bringing them indoors, but what could she do? They couldn’t very well stay in the garden all day every day. She put a Nutella-covered knife down carefully on the edge of the sink and took a deep breath. It would be nothing. It had to be nothing. She simply could not take more demon talk.
“Coming Emma,” she called, her energy already sapped. Just the thought of having to fight the girl to get her in her own bedroom again was too much to contemplate. The urge to bow to Emma’s every demand was overwhelming if only to put an end to the constant whining and tantrums but she knew that would not work out well in the end. She couldn’t set a precedent.
“Moooooooom!” the girl yelled, the noise slicing through the walls. Something about that one drawn out word cut straight through Janine, more so than the screams that had preceded it, and she picked up the pace to follow her daughter’s cries from upstairs. She felt as though she had been suckerpunched, her breath ripped from her lungs as she turned into the bathroom and saw why Emma was screaming.
The girl was stood stock still next to the bath, petrified and shaking. The front of her T-shirt and jeans were soaked through with blood, still wet and slick. Spots of glistening red peppered the laminate tiles around her. Child-sized handprints stained the edge of the sink and counter, the lid of the toilet. Wet lumps of bloodied toilet paper lay discarded on the floor.
‘Oh God, Emma!” Janine swooped into the bathroom, at once wanting to pull the girl into her arms yet terrified of hurting her more. She dropped to a crouch, her eyes frantically scanning the girl for the source of the blood, for some horrid wound full of torn flesh and exposed bone. What the hell did this? her inner voice screamed in panic.
“Mom?” came a nervous mewl from behind Janine as Joe came to investigate.
“Keep back sweetie,” she urged, not looking back at her son. She had to focus on Emma. There was just so much blood, it seemed to be everywhere. Emma’s face was smeared so much it looked like she had just killed an animal with her teeth. “Did you cut yourself? What happened? Where hurts?” she asked, trying to keep her voice calm and steady so as not to scare the girl even further, struggling over her own fear and desperation.
Emma didn’t answer, her eyes wide and teary, skin clammy and pale. As she shifted her footing, Emma coughed. A mist of blood sprayed out and dotted Janine’s t-shirt. The girl’s eyes widened in horror and she sputtered an apology. Light shimmered off a stream of fresh blood around her mouth and something in Janine’s mind clicked, suddenly aware.
“Joe, grab a fresh towel from the hamper in my bedroom okay? Be quick,” she said, not calm exactly but relieved she now understood the situation at least, panic already starting to reside a little.
“Emma, are you okay?” Joe asked, his voice unsure, as though he didn’t quite trust his mother.
“She’ll be fine, it’s just a bad nosebleed,” Janine answered, giving Emma a thin smile as she heard her son shoot off down the hallway. “How are you doing baby? You okay? Just take some breaths, try to calm down. It’s nothing to worry about, it’s just something that happens sometimes,” Janine said to Emma, trying to soothe her daughter now, one hand brushing blonde and sticky red fringe from her daughter’s eyes. “I know it’s scary but it’ll stop soon. Then we’ll get you to the doctor, you can have a lollipop and that’ll be that, good as new. Though you do need a wash first!” she laughed gently, forcing another smile. Emma was taking steadier breaths already, slightly less terrified, and Janine was glad her words were of some comfort.
What the young girl didn’t realise was that the fear that bubbled in the pit of her mother’s gut had not actually gone away. It was slowly growing bigger, and a little voice in the back of Janine’s brain was getting louder and louder. It was telling her that none of her children had ever had an unprompted nosebleed, that neither had she. It was telling her that this was too much blood, way too much. It was telling her that this was not a natural occurrence, that something was responsible for this happening to her baby girl. And it was telling her that whatever was doing this to her family was far from done.
Joe returned with a pistachio-coloured bath towel which Janine used to clean up Emma’s face and hands, then handed to the girl.
“Emma, hold this under your nose okay? We don’t want to get blood all over the car! Joe, can you run the hot tap for me?” Her jovial voice told the children that everything was okay, that they would laugh at this in a few hours. She was relieved that they seemed to be buying it but there was no convincing herself. After cleaning her daughter as best she could, not wanting to waste time getting her into the shower, Janine took Emma’s hand and ushered Joe into the hall and towards the front door.
“Right, let’s go visit the doctor shall we?” she said as they headed out of the front door and into the sun once more. None of them dared to glance at the house for fear of seeing something looking back.
By WD Jackson
When a bloody corpse is discovered in a North London park, Detective Inspector Daniel Graves is the man on task to the killer. With no clues and no suspects it seems like a dead end. Then another body turns up and this time it looks like it could all be his fault. Has his investigation caused the murderer to strike again? Is he dealing with a serial killer?
As case one gets ever more complicated, a report comes in of another suspicious death but this is nothing like any other Graves has dealt with. All involved are convinced that something supernatural is to blame. A demon.
With two cases on his shoulders and the truth seeming ever out of his grasp, Graves must race against time before both killers, human or otherwise, strike again.