The Child Across the Street by Kerry Wilkinson
English | 2020 | Mystery/Thriller| ePUB | 2.9 MB
Kerry Wilkinson has had No.1 crime bestsellers in the UK, Canada, South Africa and Singapore, as well as top-five books in Australia. He has also written two top-20 thrillers in the United States. His book, Ten Birthdays, won the RNA award for Young Adult Novel of the Year in 2018.
Wheeling my suitcase down the familiar, hedge-lined street, I smile at the sound of children playing in the park nearby. Suddenly, there’s a screech of car brakes. I rush over to see a bent bike wheel sticking out of the ditch, and underneath, a little boy…
As I turn the rusty key in the lock of the house I grew up in, memories flood back. None of them happy. I never told anyone why I left home twenty years ago, and all I want is to sort out Dad’s funeral as quickly as possible.
Now I’m trapped here, the only witness to a terrible incident that has left an eight-year-old boy fighting for his life. But after a lifetime trying to forget my past, I don’t know if I can trust my memory, or be totally sure of what I saw today.
Sorting through Dad’s things one night – shopping lists in his curly handwriting, piles of old newspapers, dusty sports trophies – I think I hear the back door handle rattle. I tiptoe downstairs, past an open window I’m sure I locked. And a figure darts across the overgrown garden.
Someone is watching me. Someone who knows I’m the only one who saw what happened to little Ethan… or could they know the real reason why I left? Either way, I’m certain that coming back was my biggest mistake. I can’t leave, but the longer I stay, the more danger I’m in…
It’s a blur as the paramedics eventually bring Ethan up the bank on a stretcher and put him into the back of an ambulance. Jo follows and then, as they head off to hospital, it’s left to Tina and the rest of the police to figure out what’s next.
A police officer is already taking photographs of the skid mark, while more uniformed officers have appeared to talk to residents. Tina asks me a few more questions, though I’m not sure how much help I am. I stumble over answers until she takes my phone number and closes her notebook.
I figure we’re done but, out of nowhere, she places a comforting hand on my arm. It feels motherly, though I’m older than she is.
‘You look like you need a good sleep, love,’ she says.
I stare at her, but the freckles are now fuzzy and unclear, like she’s behind misted glass.
‘It’s been a long day,’ I reply, fighting a yawn.
‘You’ve done great,’ Tina adds, although it takes me a second or two to realise she’s talking about calling 999.
She moves towards one of her colleagues, who is heading in the direction of one of the patrol cars. The street is now largely empty of onlookers, with only a couple of residents standing at their doors chatting to officers. It’s now I realise that I abandoned my suitcase on the corner. It’s still there, the handle high and extended, untouched by anyone who was here. In London, it would have been nicked the moment I’d left it – but not Elwood. At least, not the Elwood in which I grew up.
The horror of everything that just happened is impossible to blink away, but I don’t know what else to do. I was unsure from the moment I got off the bus, so I retrieve my case and drink from my bottle. The liquid is warm and anything but refreshing, so, after one more glance towards the skid mark on the road, I head off along Beverly Close.
It’s only a minute until I reach the junction, barely two minutes’ walk from where Ethan was hit.
I stop and stare up at the corner house that was once so familiar. It’s on the end of a terrace, the type of two-storey place that sprang up everywhere in the 1950s. There’s a small garden at the front and a far larger yard at the back. The house feels recognisable and yet not. The curtains are drawn, which is unsurprising, seeing as there will be nobody inside. There was always a strip of soil dedicated to flowers along the side of the garden but, as I step onto the path, I can see that it’s now overgrown with flourishing green weeds. It doesn’t look as if anyone’s been near it in a fair while.
I reach into the pocket at the front of my case and take out the envelope emblazoned with the purple and orange FedEx logo. The solicitor’s return details are printed on the back. I received it four days ago, though it feels longer.