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  • Why Didn't You Come for Me?
  • Written by Diane Janes
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9781569479414
  • Our Price: $25.00
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Why Didn't You Come for Me?

Written by Diane JanesAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Diane Janes

eBook

List Price: $25.00

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On Sale: May 17, 2011
Pages: | ISBN: 978-1-56947-941-4
Published by : Soho Constable Soho Press
Why Didn't You Come for Me? Cover

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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Sometimes Jo still wakes up suddenly, thinking she can hear Lauren's cry. Although twelve years have passed since her baby daughter was abducted, photos of the child continue to arrive by post with the words I still have her scrawled on the back. The police think it's a hoax, but Jo has always believed them to be genuine—and until there is some hard evidence to the contrary, she will always hold on to the belief that Lauren is still alive. Bit if the pictures really do come from the kidnapper, it means they have been keeping track of Jo's movements all these years. Recently Jo has begun to feel as if she is being watched—and that whoever has her daughter is getting closer. Is Jo's husband right to dismiss her fears as paranoia, or might Jo herself be in danger? As her life begins to unravel, Jo fears that the truth may lie in the half-forgotten distant past, scarred by rumors of insanity and murder.

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Harry half walked, half ran up the lane. All-out running made
the torch beam swing wildly from side to side, but when he
slowed down to see where he was going, the night-time
sounds crowded in on him and his own footsteps echoed in
mocking pursuit. When an owl hooted somewhere close by,
he all but dropped the torch. It was the sort of thing his
parents went on about all the time, these so-called joys of the
countryside, banging on whenever they heard a woodpecker
or sighted a deer, and going into ecstasies that time a badger
scurried across the road. Every school holiday it was the
same, coming up to ‘the cottage’ as they called it, when he
would much rather stay in Heswall with his mates. If they
had to have a second home, why couldn’t it be in the Algarve
with a swimming pool, like his uncle John’s villa, instead of
bloody Cumbria, where it rained nine days out of every ten?
And if they had to come to Cumbria, then why not the
touristy bit, rather than a miles-from-anywhere hamlet, with
the stupid name of Easter Bridge, where there was nothing
to do
? At least you could hire rowing boats in Bowness Bay,
but they hardly ever went anywhere like that. Bowness
wasn’t ‘the real Lake District’, his dad said, although the
shop selling thirty-six different flavours of ice cream seemed
pretty darned real to Harry, and a damn sight more interesting
than Easter Bridge, which consisted of fewer than a dozen
houses, strung out along a little-frequented lane, which
wasn’t even within a mile of a lake. Lake District – pah!

He thought it must be even worse for Sean, who was stuck
here all the time, the only kid in the place when Harry and his
younger sister Charlotte weren’t there. The parents had been
really pleased when he told them that Sean had invited him
round to play computer games. They seemed to imagine that
it signalled some kind of rite of passage – acceptance by the
locals – becoming part of the community. Their disappointment
on learning that Sean’s family were incomers had been
palpable.

Anyway, Sean’s company had been a godsend this halfterm,
getting him out of several boring walks, to say nothing
of evenings playing Monopoly and Jenga en famille. It was
quite a laugh hanging out with Sean, who had the new Grand
Theft Auto
, which Harry’s own parents had refused him on
grounds of its violent content, but tonight had been their last
night together, because after a week at the cottage it was time
to go home.

It had been right at the end of the evening when Sean had
come out with it. Harry had been sounding off about Easter
Bridge, and how it must be the dullest place on earth, when
Sean looked up from the shelf where he was taking out a
DVD and asked, ‘What would you say if I told you there was
a murderer living in Easter Bridge?’

Harry had restrained himself from the temptation to
respond, ‘I’d say you were a dickhead, who is absolutely full
of it,’ because, after all, Sean was not one of his mates from
home, but still something of an unknown quantity. He was a
recent acquaintance, and some eighteen months older than
Harry, to say nothing of being his only lifeline from all those
‘Let’s-climb-Hellvelyn’ initiatives that his parents categorized
as good clean family fun. So Harry had bitten back his
instinctive response and said instead, ‘No. You’re kidding
me?’ At which Sean just fixed him with a look which said he
wasn’t.

‘How do you know?’ Now Harry stopped to think about it,
that wasn’t the most obvious question.

‘Oh, I know. I’ve got proof. I’ll show you some time –
maybe when you’re next up here. I don’t want to put anything
on Hotmail. It’s not secure.’

‘We might not be coming back until the Easter holidays.’

‘Next time,’ said Sean. He turned back to the shelf
containing the DVDs. It was a gesture of dismissal.

Harry knew he was being toyed with, but the digital clock
already stood at 10.05 p.m. and his return time had been
specified as 10 p.m. (It was a point of honour to be a little
late – to demonstrate disregard, but not such outright
disobedience that the parents could claim they had been
worried about him.)

‘OK then. See you.’ Harry tried to make it sound as if he
didn’t much care whether Sean told him more about this
supposed murderer or not. But now he wondered as he
hurried along – had Sean been winding him up? It was easy
to imagine anything, out here in the dark, with the wind
making the trees creak and sending whispers through last
year’s dried-up beech leaves. Surely he must be bullshitting.
A story to scare the kid up from the south?

Harry reached the gate of his parents’ cottage, almost
wrenching it off in his hurry, then letting it go with a bang
once he was safely through. If either of them said anything,
he could say the wind caught it.


Jo looked up from her book when she heard Sean descending
the stairs. ‘Has Harry gone?’ she called into the hall.

Sean appeared in the doorway, his expression contemptuous.
‘Didn’t you hear the door?’

Since she had obviously heard Sean on the stairs, it was
pointless to deny that she had also heard Harry. She had
intended the question to be the opening gambit in a friendly
conversation; to afford Sean an opportunity to tell her
something about what he and Harry had been getting up to in
his room for hours on end, but the initiative had already
stalled.

‘If you heard him go, why ask?’ His tone was unmistakably
sarcastic.

She managed a reasonably neutral tone in return. ‘Please
don’t be rude, Sean. I was only making conversation. It’s
what normal people do.’

He shot straight back: ‘Are you saying I’m not normal?’

‘Of course not . . .’ She paused, about to add something
else, but he stalked off in the direction of the kitchen, leaving
Jo feeling that she had just lost another round of a contest in
which she wanted no part. For a moment she considered
following to remonstrate with him, but she decided to let
it go.

‘It’s difficult being a stepmother,’ people had assured her.
‘You have to work things out gradually.’ She tried very hard,
forMarcus’s sake, but in the six months since Sean had come
to live with them, the relationship between herself and her
stepson had not improved. Sean hardly spoke to her unless
he had to, and she found the prolonged silences between them
a strain. Sean had the ability to render silence hostile in a way
she could not easily explain to Marcus, who appeared
oblivious to it.

When she and Marcus first got together, there had been no
suggestion that Sean might become part of the package.
Marcus had been divorced for years, and although a model
absent father, maintaining contact, sending presents, periodically
appearing to provide trips and treats, he had never
expected his son would want to live anywhere but with his
ex-wife. All this had changed with the arrival of a new man
in her life. ‘I don’t like him,’ Sean told his father. ‘Mum
doesn’t have time for me any more, not now she’s expecting
another baby. Why can’t I come and live with you?’

‘It won’t be for ever,’ Marcus had said to Jo. ‘He’s
fourteen now. He’ll be eighteen and off to uni before we
know it.’

She had assured him that she did not mind. She knew that
with a partner came the baggage of their past relationships –
and Marcus had always been the most understanding man in
the world when it came to that. She had tried to make
allowances for the fact that she and Sean hardly knew one
another. She did everything she could think of to welcome
him: spent money hand over fist redecorating his room,
involving him, letting him choose whatever he wanted to
have in it. She endeavoured to provide the food he liked at
mealtimes, to be supportive when it came to starting his new
school. She even covertly studied books about how to be a
good step-parent, but none of the advice seemed to work.
Was it just a teenage-boy thing? Maybe it was teenagers in
general, she thought. Everyone said teenagers were difficult.
Her only real experience of teenagers was being one herself,
and that had been a long time ago.

She was not used to having teenagers – or even children in
general – around. Her eyes strayed to the stainless-steel photo
frame which stood in a prominent position on the pine
dresser. A head-and-shoulders shot of a blonde toddler,
snapped against a backdrop of garden flowers. A happy little
face, looking straight into the camera. Lauren’s smiling eyes
met hers. ‘I love you, Mummy,’ they said.

Sometimes Lauren reproached her in dreams. Where are
you? Why don’t you come for me?
Sometimes, even now –
getting on for nine years after it happened, Jo would still
wake suddenly, thinking she heard a child’s cry. For a split
second the wind in the trees outside the bedroom window
would sound like the sea as it surged up the shingle beach
and Jo would picture the buggy, suspended among the
brambles which grew on a rocky outcrop, a dozen or so feet
below the cliff top. Sometimes she called out, clutching at
the empty air beyond the bedclothes, imagining she saw the
child, falling, falling, tumbling head over heels in a long,
slow-motion descent past the off-white chalk: the tiny figure
in its scarlet t-shirt and sky-blue dungarees, bright against the
dull backdrop like a splash of paint flung at a prepared
canvas. She always woke before Lauren hit the ground.
Shuddering in the darkness, Jo would remind herself that
Lauren had not plummeted to her death. Nothing had been
recovered from among the smooth, clean stones. There had
been no sign of a child’s body. The summer tides never
reached the foot of the cliffs. Only the empty pushchair had
been found, crazily tilted among the bushes, leaning at an
angle potent with false suggestion.

There had been pictures of the empty pushchair in many of
the papers, photographs taken from far below with a
telescopic lens. One appeared under the headline WHERE IS
BABY LAUREN? It was the question everyone had asked a
million times. Lauren – where was Lauren? At each of the
news conferences, Jo had vowed to go on searching. ‘I will
never give up hope.’

‘Never give up.’ She had spoken those words a thousand
times – sometimes standing in Lauren’s empty bedroom,
where only a gaggle of abandoned toys remained to hear her.
But never is a very long time. Someone else occupied the
bedroom now. Someone else played in the pocket-handkerchief
garden, where Lauren had taken her first faltering steps.

On the day when the toys were finally packaged up, that
room, that house vacated, Jo had comforted herself with the
thought that Lauren would be far too old for those things
now. She would need new toys when she came home, toys
more appropriate to her age group. Other people tiptoed
around the issue of the baby toys, saying – if they spoke of it
at all – that this long-overdue act of disposal was a positive
step, a way of moving forward. They didn’t seem to
understand that moving forward inevitably meant leaving
something – or someone – behind. As the timescale
lengthened until it was reckoned in years, Jo did sometimes
forget. Gradually she had learned that respite could only be
found in forgetting.

Marcus had helped, of course. To love and to be loved, that
was the nearest thing to a cure for everything. So first had
come the tonic of Marcus’s love, and then the idea of turning
their mutual interests into a business – the all-encompassing
project that had becomeM. H. Tours. The irony was that when
she and Marcus had begun M. H. Tours, it had been with the
idea of working together. In the early days, they had jointly
accompanied nearly all the tours, only working separately as
the business expanded and they offered more itineraries to
cater for increasing demand. People tended to assume that the
name M. H. Tours had been chosen because of Marcus’s
initials, but in reality it started as a private joke – Magical
History as opposed to Magical Mystery – a company which
provided holidays in various parts of the UK for groups and
individuals with a passion for history. It was squarely aimed
at the top end of the market, with some tours themed to
specific periods or events – Battlefields of the Wars of the
Roses, or Monastic Life in Medieval England. Some were
based around the lives of famous people: there was a Mary
Queen of Scots tour, one featuring Richard III and another
which majored on Brunel. The company had their own luxury
midi-coaches, which transported guests between carefully
chosen accommodations. As well as British travellers, there
was a big market among the Americans and Japanese, and the
business had blossomed even further since M. H. Tours had
gone into partnership with Flights of Fantasy Ltd, a similar
company to their own, specializing in holidays themed to Lake
Country writers such as Beatrix Potter, Arthur Ransome and
WilliamWordsworth. The timing of their amalgamation with
Flights of Fantasy had proved unexpectedly opportune, not
only in its potential for further expansion, but also in that it
provided a fresh source of experienced specialist guides at the
very time when Sean’s arrival necessitated Marcus and Jo
taking turns to stay at home.

In spite of the difficulties child care presented to a couple
whose working life had hitherto been spent largely on the
road, she fully accepted thatMarcus had a duty to his son and
that she in turn had a duty to Marcus. Unfortunately, these
new arrangements not only contrived to leave her alone with
the boy for days at a stretch, but also ensured that periods at
home withMarcus were invariably shared by Sean. She soon
realized that unless she set aside a great many Sean-related
grievances, a lot of their time together as a couple would be
dominated by her problems with Marcus’s son.

Being away with M. H. Tours had been a way to immerse
herself and to forget – the surest anaesthetic for a pain which
was otherwise too great to bear. The waves of guilt that
followed each period of forgetfulness were a terrible sideeffect,
but like a cancer sufferer enduring chemotherapy, Jo
had come to realize that without recourse to the antidote, she
simply could not go on living. Like a painful amputation, the
agony became less acute; one adapted, got used to living with
a part of oneself gone. Sometimes she wondered if her new
life had helped her to forget too well, so that as time went by
she almost welcomed the return of the pain. Sometimes the
harder it hurt the better she felt, because remembrance was
payment. And she must never forget – not that there
was much chance she or the world at large ever would – that
it was she who was to blame. It had been she who had left
their sleeping child unguarded.

Such a nice day. A sunny day, holidaymakers strolling
around in summer clothes, everything gaudy and bright, like
a scene in a child’s picture book: the sort which has a happy
ending. It had not begun like a story where some devil steals
away the golden-haired child. The village street was busy
with people (so busy with people, and yet no one saw a
thing), just ordinary people having a day out (were they all
blind?). Dom had slipped into the little chemist’s shop to
replace his forgotten razor. He had come away on holiday
without it, left it sitting on the bathroom windowsill at home.
‘I’ll catch you up,’ he said.

She had only walked on a matter of yards, drawn to take a
closer look at The Shell Shop. She had scarcely expected
such an old-fashioned seaside emporium would still exist.
The proprietors had expanded their operation on to the
pavement, setting up tables out front which were covered in
shells for sale, tables placed too close together to allow for the
passage of a pushchair. She had only slipped inside for a
moment. For a long time afterwards she could not even
remember why. ‘Did you want to look at something?’ the
policewoman kept on asking. ‘Was there something you
wanted to buy?’ As if she would want to buy some piece of
old tat made from shells, for heaven’s sake. But if not, then
why – why – had she left Lauren alone?

The shop had a coloured awning which extended right out
over the pavement with ‘The Shell Shop’ spelled out in huge
letters across the blue and white stripes, the words faded by
five seasons of sunshine. Hooks had been driven into the
outer edge of the awning, and from these were suspended
strings of shells, ropes of shells, shells fashioned into wind
chimes, shells made into dangling objects reminiscent of an
Australian bushman’s hat. There were shells which shifted
in the breeze, clattering uneasily against one another like
unwieldy strings of giant worry beads. Every spare inch of
window space was filled with objects adorned with shells.
Useless, tacky souvenirs which screened anyone inside the
shop from what was happening on the pavement outside,
where Lauren was sleeping in her pushchair.

She remembered fingering a mouse on skis – the whole
thing made from shells – contemplating it as a joke present
for some friends (remembering this only much, much later –
far too late to convince the police that this had been her
original motive for entering the shop). She didn’t buy
anything.Mere minutes had passed between her entering and
emerging from the shop. On her way out she had to wait
while a fat woman momentarily blocked the doorway, then
threaded her way between a table stacked with sea urchins
and another covered with the polished vacated homes of a
hundred queen scallops, before she could get back to Lauren.
The empty space on the pavement stopped her dead. A pair
of feet had moved into the space where Lauren’s buggy
should have been. A pair of feet in open-toed sandals, which
belonged to a man wearing a pair of brown shorts. He was
picking up items from the display, showing them to a
disinterested teenage daughter. Jo stared at him, all but
shoved him away, as if by removing him she could recapture
what she ought to be seeing there.

A solution presented itself in a rush of anger. Dom must
have pushed Lauren further up the street, not thinking of the
fright he would give her when she emerged from the shop
and found Lauren was gone. Then she saw him approaching.
The smile as he caught sight of her died in an instant. Her
expression and the absence of the pushchair told him
everything. It was then that she began to scream.


From the Hardcover edition.

  • Why Didn't You Come for Me? by Diane Janes
  • May 17, 2011
  • Fiction - Suspense
  • Soho Constable
  • $25.00
  • 9781569479414

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