SUNDAY AUGUST 10th 1958
Frances Anderton planned to be home before breakfast. She let herself out of the Blainey house and took a deep lungful of the warm, summer air. She stepped down the crazy-paving, through the gate and out into the tree-lined street.
She walked briskly along the street, then continued under the trees into Glendale Road. A milkman trundled by, bottles rattling. Nobody else was about. She crossed the road and took the small lane that led to Riverdale Avenue, a few streets away from her parents’ house.
The previous evening her mother had sent her to stay with family friends, and now she was regretting the argument she’d had with her father. He’d never hit her, but last night he had come very close to it. All because of that stupid dress.
She was fourteen, for heaven’s sake! She should be allowed to dress how she liked. She was too old for the gymslips and ankle socks her father insisted she wear. She wouldn’t — couldn’t — remain his precious little girl forever. He should let her grow up. Fiona hadn’t had these problems, she was sure. Her older sister wore what she chose, and she went to parties, mixed with boys. Father didn’t make her life miserable.
She passed a young man, crouching down beside a gleaming motor scooter, in two-tone blue. He appeared to be tinkering with the engine.
“Hello,” he said. “It’s Frances, isn’t it?”
She was taken aback. “Yes. How do you know who I am?” He was smartly dressed in a fawn jacket and cream slacks. His fair hair was short, neatly parted and combed, and he was very good-looking. He was smiling, looking straight at her. Suddenly she was aware of her freckles, the wire braces on her teeth, and her unruly shock of ginger hair.
“You’re Fiona Anderton’s sister, aren’t you?”
“Are you a friend of Fiona’s?”
“Oh, yes, Fiona and I go back a long way. Derek Webster.” He held out his hand.
“Very pleased to meet you.”
“Likewise. What do you think of the scooter?” he said. “I’ve only had it a few weeks.”
“It’s very . . . smart.”
“It’s more than smart,” he said. “It’s a Phoenix, designed by the great Ernie Barratt; it’s got an all steel body and a 150cc engine. There’re not many of these around.”
She wasn’t really sure what she was supposed to be looking at, but pretended she did.
“Would you like a go?”
“I . . . I don’t know how.”
He laughed. “Not drive it,” he said. “I’ll take you for a spin, if you like, on the pillion.”
“I’d better not.”
“Don’t you trust me?” he said. “Don’t you think I can ride it properly?”
“No, it’s not that. I’m sure you ride very well.”
“Then where’s the harm?”
She glanced down at her Timex Alice in Wonderland wristwatch. Embarrassed by it, she covered it with the sleeve of her blouse. “I don’t want to be late for breakfast,” she said.
“You worry too much,” he said. “Your sister doesn’t.”
“All right then,” she said, nettled. “Take me for a ride on your wonderful Phoenix.”
“Well done. Just hop on and hold onto my waist. I’ll have you home in time for breakfast.” He straddled the machine and steadied it as she climbed aboard.
* * *
She settled behind him, and he eased it forward off its stand. Moments later they were heading down the street.
“Not too fast!” she called above the engine’s noise.
“Just relax,” he called back, “and when I lean into a bend, follow my lead and lean the same way.”
Within minutes they had left the leafy streets behind and were heading into a part of town she didn’t recognise. The neat houses with their tidy gardens were replaced by warehouses and factories surrounded by chain-link fencing.
“Where are we going?” she called.
“Away from the traffic,” he called back. “I want to show you what this beauty can do.” His hand jerked up, twisting the accelerator. The engine rose in pitch and, thrust backwards, she held tighter onto his waist.
The scent of his hair oil was almost overpowering, and she turned her face aside to take a lungful of fresh air.
“I think I’ve had enough now.”
He didn’t answer. They had entered a long, straight stretch of road and he increased their speed still further.
“I’d like to go home,” she said, but the air buffeting her face whipped away her words.
Moments later they had left the chain-link fences behind. Now there were streets with houses.
“I want to go back now!”
Finally he acknowledged her. “Yes, of course.” They were slowing down. “I just have to make a stop and then I’ll take you straight home.”
“Thank you,” she said with relief.
The avenue was lined with trees. He made a left turn, into a drive leading to a large Victorian house surrounded by high privet hedges, that stood apart from its neighbours. He drew up outside and switched off the engine.
“I just have a call to make,’ he said as he dismounted.
“Should I come with you?”
“No, you wait here. I’ll only be a moment.”
She watched him as he trotted up the steps, unlocked the front door and disappeared inside.
She sat on the pillion and looked at her watch again. It had only been twenty minutes since he had offered her a ride, but it seemed much longer, and she was starting to wish she had never accepted. She wished she was back home, enjoying breakfast with her family, making peace with her father. She wasn’t cut out to be a rebel.
* * *
She had one foot on the ground and was about to go and see how much longer he was going to be when someone grabbed her roughly from behind. A cloth — a rag or a pad that smelled sweet and sickly — came down tightly over her nose and mouth. She had no time to cry out; whoever had grabbed her was strong, and she was hauled backwards off the scooter. She flailed her arms and kicked out with her sandaled feet. One foot connected with the rear fender, gashing her toe.
She was dragged back over the ground, her feet kicking out weakly. Then her eyes closed, and she sank into blackness.
NO EVIL - Sample