‘The mother’ shifted uncomfortably and a low moan escaped her.
“Yes, that’s what your dad became. He wasn’t always like that.”
The conduit had opened and the boy was released from his silence.
“Was it the bad man who did this? Was it he one with the sweet songs?”
A little perturbed, Michael decided to press the younger boy.
“Have you seen the bad man?”
“Oh yes. He comes in my sleep. He tells me that he has a place where all children can be. He says that there it is good. No bossy grown ups, no worries. He tells me that we will be happy there, me and Rachel. Rachel is my sister.”
The boy nodded to the girl who was still snuggled in her mothers arms, a hand clasped around her head and over her ears as a form of protection.
“He asked me to promise that I would not tell anybody.”
“But you’re telling me.”
“I wouldn’t promise. I don’t like him.”
“What’s your name?”
“Josh. Mum calls me Joshua. Everybody else just calls me Josh.”
“You are Michael and that is Laura and she is your mum.”
The boy had obviously been paying attention to their conversations.
“You have a brother called Christopher and another called Pete.”
Laura stood on the brakes sharply and the car skidded a distance on the frozen surface.
“How do you know about Christopher and Peter?” she demanded.
The boy was not put off by the urgency in Laura’s voice but continued as if he was relating back a day at school.
“I see them all the time. Since the day it all happened, since Dad joined the bad man, Chris and Peter have come to us. The sat with us in the cellar and said it would be alright, that you were coming and that you would save us. The bad man said that it was all lies and that only he could help us, but we didn’t like the bad man. He took our Dad. Now he has got Mum somewhere and he’s not letting her leave.”
Laura, who had known the dark places The Piper could take one, touched the boy’s hand.
“It’s going to be alright. Your mum will come back.”
“Like you did?”
Again the shock of him knowing sent a wave against her fragile barriers that guarded what was left of normality.
“Yes, like I did.”
“They are going to a castle. That’s where the Resistors are. A castle.”
‘The mother’, the manic stare less unnerving than before, reached out her own hand and closed it upon Laura’s wrist. The white heat of the connection was not lost upon her and the image of her long lost sister flashed upon her mind.
“Christopher is in danger!” then the woman fell back to her previous state.
Rachel, the young girl started to move. Unhooking herself from her mother’s grip, she sat upright and smiled momentarily it was snatched from her face once more.
“He’s looking at us,” she said pointing to the leather who was staring into the car as if noting each of the faces in turn. It then moved towards them and tried the door handle on Michael’s side and, not being locked, it opened easily.
The girl let out a peel of horror as the leather lay hold of Michael’s neck before it recoiled, struck by something that sent it reeling across the icy surface and falling flat on its back with an unnatural thump. Michael, his expression impassive, closed the door. His mother, another bolt of the supernatural to deal with, found a smile.
“What happened there?”
“Sometimes they get more than they bargained for. Now let’s get going before he decides he wants some more. Is there a map in here Mum?”
“I think there’s one underneath your seat. It’s probably old but so is this castle.”
The car was moving again, leaving the twitching leather to perform its rendition of Bambi on ice. Michael quickly found the pages he needed remembering the road signs they had passed.
“Castle Stewart. Here it is. It’s near a village called Hepley. I think we need to carry on along this road for another fifteen miles or so. We should reach the National Park and then it’s lots of small country roads. We’ll have to take care.”
With renewed optimism, the group re-launched their journey. Michael and his mother were happy at the thought of finding Chris knowing that they still had much to do to locate Peter. The ice that was protecting ‘the mother’ and her young was starting to melt. Soon all channels could be open.
Dawkins, their unwanted passenger remained still in the boot space. For his fellow passengers, he seemed little more than another spent victim of the evil that was being played out.
However, spent was not the word he would have used to describe the plans he was devising.