As it’s nearly Christmas, and Hidden Faces begins as the staff prepare for the Nativity play, I thought I would share an extract with you. I hope you enjoy it.
Cynthia Mott was late. She slotted her key into the solid front door and pushed it open, stepped into the front room, brushed her feet on the mat and hurried under the low beam into her kitchen. She dumped her bag in the corner, keys on top of the fridge and bent to retrieve her forgotten lunch.
There was a thump. She froze, all her attention focused on listening. It came again. A dull, low thump. Wood on wood. It came from the cottage garden, which should have been empty.
She glanced at the clock, irritable, there was no time for this, had not really been time to even collect her sandwiches. Another thump. That decided her. She dropped the lunch box into her bag, kicked off her shoes, struggled into the wellingtons by the back door and marched across the lawn.
The grass was still frozen, glistening from the hard frost which had hardened the sprinkling of snow into icy tufts. She crunched as she walked, hurrying towards the shed. The door should have been fastened but a slight breeze was blowing, stirring it. It swung open, paused for a moment as though holding its breath, then thumped shut. As she approached, Cynthia could see the outline of a man through the cobwebbed window. She frowned, began composing caustic sentences, flung open the shed door. She too paused, held her breath.
He was dead. There could be no doubt about that. His face, already tinged with blue, had one eye open, gazing sightlessly at the ceiling. He sat on her abandoned rocking chair in the corner, trousers stained and mouth drooping. His grey hair poked thinly from beneath a brown cap and his feet, strangely angled, were clad in muddy boots. There was a newspaper on the floor, she supposed it had fallen when he drifted from consciousness.
Suddenly suffused with anger, Cynthia glanced once more at her watch. 12:40. The tension rose within her like an icy bubble, overwhelming her ability to think.
‘I do not have time for this,’ she announced, ‘not today.’
Decisively she reached out, shut the door, fastened it with a large bolt. She turned and hurried back to the cottage, slipped back into her sensible low heeled shoes, retrieved her bag and slammed the front door behind her.
The road was slippery as Cynthia joined the long line of cars edging their way into town. It was a week before Christmas and lights hung from trees that swayed tiredly in the breeze. The lights did not appear to have any shape at all and one felt they had been sneezed across the branches rather than designed. Shoppers hurried from rare parking spaces, ever aware of the nearing deadline, carrying immense lists, failing to look jolly.
Chewing her lunch as she drove, Cynthia avoided careless pedestrians as she navigated the High Street. Marksbridge was a small market town built alongside the river. It had a collection of small shops clustered along a single road with facades dating back to the 1800s. One of the large supermarket chains had recently arrived on former scrubland at the bottom of the High Street but other than that it seemed that the outside world had failed to notice the town.
The school was on a car lined side road leading from the top of the High Street. As she navigated the parked vehicles, she hoped her parking space would be free. It was not, of course, it was that kind of a day…
Hidden Faces by Anne E. Thompson is an easy-read, feel-good novel, perfect for reading next to a fire at Christmas. Available from bookshops and Amazon. UK link below.