“Why are you asking about me, girl? What mischief are you planning?” The voice was deep, the accent local, and strong. Becky was too terrified to turn around, and swallowed hard before answering. Her voice wouldn’t seem to work properly, and came out faint and weak. “No mischief, I promise you. I am just trying to find out what happened here”. From what he had said, she felt sure that it must be Thomas Oliphant, Charity’s father. He had that same awful smell about him, and from the feel of him behind her, Becky guessed that he was not a tall man. “You’ve been warned you have, so take heed. Don’t go messing with things you don’t understand, you hear me?” Still too frightened to turn, Becky just nodded.
Then he was gone, and the smell with him.
That had really scared her. It had never occurred to her that there might be others like Charity here. Perhaps the whole family was lurking in and around the house. She rubbed both arms vigourously, to try to get them warm. He seemed to have brought a chill with him, like the one that was always under the tree.
Despite that experience, it made her all the more determined. She had to contact the clairvoyant, Sara Oliphant, and arrange to see her soon. But when she checked her emails, there had been no reply. She looked at the website again, in case the woman had replied there. Nothing. Becky sent another contact form message. This time she added her address, hoping it would prompt Sara into action. With not much more she could do, she decided to go to bed early again, and hope that there were no other visitors to her room that night.
At school the next day, Mr Duncan called her to one side and told her about the bus that picked up from her village, handing her a timetable. It seemed that Mum had phoned the school earlier, asked for Becky’s name to be put on the list, and had paid in advance for this term. “It’s not a very big bus, ten or twelve seats I believe. And it isn’t marked. But it is yellow, and parks next to the village green. You can’t fail to see it”. She thanked the teacher, and sat down. Then he turned to face the class. “It seems that Drew Tyler will not be returning to us. That leaves a seat next to Rebecca Webster. If any of you want to change seats to sit next to her, put your hand up”.
She wasn’t in the least surprised when no hands were raised, and that suited her very well.
Becky’s new attitude started that day. She showed her talent during English class, and completed the Science experiment on her own in record time. In fact, she had written it up before everyone else had finished messing around with the small piles of dirt they had been given to test. In Geography, she startled Mrs Kennington with her grasp of climate change, and knowing the difference between low pressure weather patterns and high pressure ones. Drew’s sudden disappearance was being talked about all over, but not to her. She was being blamed for it though, that was obvious from the stares, and the openly hostile way the others ignored her. But nothing else was done. No name-calling, no notes stuck on her desk, nobody trying to stamp on her feet, or barge past her in the corridors.
Enjoying a wrap and a yoghurt for lunch, she grinned at the others as they walked past. They looked away, whispering to each other. Becky was very pleased.
They were scared of her now.
Mum was trying to sound upbeat and cheerful when she arrived to collect her. She was on time too. “The bus is all sorted for Monday, Becks, did they tell you?” Becky nodded, and turned to stare out of the car window. Mum was going to have to work a lot harder than that, to overcome all the lies. “I’m doing your favourite tonight, love. Chicken and broccoli pasta bake, with Parmesan cheese. I’ve got some of that nice garlic flatbread you like too”.
Up in her room as Mum fussed with the dinner, she was excited to see she had a reply from Sara Oliphant. It was suitably mysterious too.
‘So you live in Wright’s Mill? I knew they were converting that, but had no idea anyone had actually moved in yet. Don’t do anything until you have spoken to me. You are too young to get involved in anything to do with that building, or my family. I will come to your house at two o’clock on Saturday afternoon. Tell your parents I am helping you with a project. Sara.’
She clicked on the ‘Reply’ option. ‘Okay. Thanks for responding. I will see you on Saturday’.
With two hours at least before dinner, Becky decided to see if Charity was under the tree. There was no sign of her anywhere, so she crawled under the branches, and went through the usual routine. Once she could feel the bark under her palm, she spoke out loud.
“Tell me about Sara Oliphant, and all her secrets”.
Bracing herself for the familiar strange feeling, Becky was startled when nothing happened. She was still under the tree, it wasn’t unduly cold, and her hand hadn’t seemed to become part of the trunk. Perhaps the tree knew nothing about the mystical Sara? She tried something else.
“Tell me about Drew Tyler, and all his secrets”.
This time it happened, and was worse than before.
Things flashed past in her mind like watching a DVD on fast-forward. There was Drew, younger, but still recognisable. He was crouched down, with his hands protecting his face as a belt of some kind repeatedly struck him around the head and body. On a sofa nearby, an overweight woman sat watching television as a man Becky couldn’t see roared abuse at Drew as he slapped the belt across the boy. At the other end of the sofa, Drew’s sister was propped up on some cushions. She was rolling her head from side to side, and dribbling onto a towel wrapped around her neck. That scene lasted just seconds, before moving on. It was certainly more recent, as she could see a current model smartphone lying on a low coffee table. A man was asleep in a chair, and judging from the empty bottle lying across his lap, he was drunk too.
The events slowed back to normal speed, and she was sure she was looking through Drew’s eyes like before. Looking around the room slowly, she suddenly turned, and headed upstairs in the small house. The stairwell was narrow, and the treads steep. Going though the door opposite the top of the stairs, she entered a tiny bedroom, with space for little more than a single bed, and a small wardrobe. Hands stretched out in front of her, Drew’s hands. They picked up a long belt from off the bedspread. It was identical to the belt she had seen hitting Drew earlier in the vision.
The belt was being secured around her neck, pulled tight. She watched as Drew’s bare feet stepped onto the mattress, and his fingers hooked the buckle over a large square nail protruding from a beam running across the corner of the room. Then he stepped off the end of the bed, into the space behind the door.
Everything went black.