Flesh and Blood

Flesh and Blood by Nick Gifford Read Free Book Online

Book: Flesh and Blood by Nick Gifford Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nick Gifford
that now he could only guess why she avoided questions about when they would go home and why his father never answered his calls.
    He’d confronted her last night and demanded to know how long they would be staying. “I’m sorry, Matt,” she had told him. “It’s not easy. Gramps... I can’t just leave . Anyway, it’s the summer and we’re by the sea: why not treat it like a holiday?”
    He found a space on the grassy ‘cliff’ and lay back. It wasn’t as hot as it had been a few days ago, but the hazy sun felt good as its rays soaked into his weary body. Closing his eyes, with the smell of the sea and the sounds of the people all about, he tried to imagine that he really was on holiday.
    Instead, he remembered Vince’s mad, staring eyes and the look – almost of pleasure, he realised – on his face as he had dragged that blade across his arm. He remembered the tension in his cousin’s voice as he had said, “I’m real, man. Don’t ever doubt me.”
    No wonder he had over-reacted. That’s what it was, he was sure. Sitting in the car on the way back to Bathside, he had thought through his experience at the house – in the basement. It was delayed shock, he was sure. He remembered how scared he had been by Vince’s actions, how he had forced it out of his mind and gone into the house. He had moved from room to room like some kind of robot: checking that everything was okay, finding the items on his list.
    And then in the basement... Had he stumbled, perhaps? Was that what had broken through his barriers and let the panic come rushing out? It was all a perfectly natural response to Vince’s warped display of bravado.
    He smiled grimly. Either that, or he was cracking up, just like the rest of his family...
    ~
    He knew something was wrong as soon as he entered the bed and breakfast on Bagshaw Terrace. There was something about it, although he didn’t know quite what it was.
    Mrs Eldridge was working in the kitchen, singing a hymn in an exaggerated, semi-operatic voice. Little Lauren was in the front room, watching one of her videos as usual. So why was he suddenly so edgy? What was it that his body had detected that his mind couldn’t quite put into words?
    He noticed the smell as he started up the second flight of stairs. A briny, pungent tang. Like old, rotting seaweed.
    Automatically, he looked down at his feet. He had been on the beach earlier, but there was nothing attached to his shoes that could have brought this smell into the house with him.
    The smell had become quite foul by the time he reached the top landing.
    His mother’s door was open and as soon as she heard him she stepped into view. Her face was pale, and he could see from the redness around her eyes that she had been crying.
    “What... what is it?” he asked.
    She pushed a hank of hair out of her eyes. “Matthew,” she said in a steady, controlled tone. “I know it’s been hard for you, but really ...”
    “What?”
    “I know you must be bored out of your mind, but this is really too much.”
    “ What is?” He stepped into the room, and the smell was so strong now that he nearly retched.
    “This... this macabre collecting of yours: I didn’t say anything the first time, but it’s going to have to stop, do you hear me? It’s disgusting, Matt: these things are full of germs and god knows what else, and it stinks to high heaven! I really don’t know what’s got into that mind of yours. I really don’t understand what’s got into you.”
    He still stared at her blankly, so that she stopped talking and merely pointed into the room at a carrier bag on one of the twin beds. “Just get rid of it,” she said. “Just get rid of that thing and we’ll forget all about it, okay?”
    She was clearly making a tremendous effort to be understanding and reasonable and Matt still had no idea what she was talking about.
    He went over to the bed. The stench was quite unbearable. Tentatively, he reached out for the bag and pulled it

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