Mortlock

Free Mortlock by Jon Mayhew

Book: Mortlock by Jon Mayhew Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jon Mayhew
at Josie. She gave a tight smile and looked at the floor.
    ‘It’s very irregular.’ Wiggins stared back at Josie. ‘But it seems that the poor girl is a victim of Cardamom’s past sins. Not her fault, sir, not her fault.’
    Josie pursed her lips. What right did he have to criticise her guardian? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone , she thought, wondering what secrets he had buried away. And where was toad boy?
    Alfie appeared through the curtain to the back room. When he saw Josie his eyes widened and his lip curled.
    ‘What’s she doin’ ’ere?’ he snapped.
    Josie tensed and folded her arms. Remember to give him a chance , she told herself.
    ‘It seems, young man, that your . . . hmmm, yes, your sister is staying with us for a while,’ Wiggins said, pushing his spectacles up on to his forehead.
    ‘Over my dead body!’ Alfie snarled, whirling back through the doorway.
    Josie couldn’t stand it any longer. ‘Do we have to stay here, Gimlet?’ she pleaded.
    ‘Sorry, Josie, but I have to go back to the studio.’ Gimlet came over and placed a hand on her shoulder. ‘You’ll be fine here. I’ll be back in the morning.’
    ‘But what about the Aunts?’
    ‘They’ll be more suspicious if I don’t return,’ Gimlet said. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be careful.’
    He hugged her and Josie watched helplessly as Gimlet disappeared into the foggy night. She wondered if she would ever see her friend again.

.
    .
    A handkerchief she said she tied
    About his head, and that they tried;
    The sexton they did speak unto,
    That he the grave would then undo.
    Affrighted then they did behold
    His body turning into mould,
    And though he had a month been dead,
    This ’kerchief was about his head.
    ‘The Suffolk Miracle’, traditional folk ballad

.
    CHAPTER NINE
    Night Visiting
    Josie sat up in her makeshift bed in Wiggins’s parlour. Squeezed on to the sofa, she surveyed the tiny room: one armchair, a small table, an aspidistra by the window. Wiggins had set a fire in the grate and a few feeble flames cast deep shadows.
    Josie felt as if a huge hole filled her stomach. Tears forced their way out between her eyelashes. She read over the note in the half-light, even though the words were already ingrained in her memory. Something about it teased at her – like when she couldn’t remember a name, even though she could feel it there, just out of reach.
    She stuffed the note down the side of the sofa and stood up, padding over to the door that led down to the shop. A faint light glimmered from below. Someone was downstairs. Josie looked at Wiggins’s bedroom door. He hadn’t come out; she’d have known if he had. It must be Alfie. Josie took a breath and placed a tentative foot on the top step. Then she ran down the stairs.
    The shop lay empty. Moonlight gave a silver silhouette to the counter and the coffin lids that leaned against it. But a stronger glow of candlelight shone from behind the curtain to the back room. Josie crept forward and peered in.
    The room looked the same as it had that afternoon, only now shadows danced on the walls, so that the potion bottles and instruments seemed to jump about on the shelves.
    But Josie’s eyes were drawn to the figure in the centre of the room.
    Alfie stood over the corpse, his skin glowing in the candlelight. His eyes had rolled back in their sockets, showing only the whites, and his mouth was set in a snarl. His whole body shook as he pointed a finger at the woman’s corpse. Josie’s eyes widened. She could feel the blood pumping through her temples as, slowly, the corpse’s hand began to rise. Josie wanted to scream out loud, to run away – anything but watch as the dead woman’s arm lifted. Then Alfie gave a violent shudder and collapsed. The arm flopped back on to the table. Alfie lay still on the floor.
    Josie leapt through the curtain to her brother as he lay groaning.
    ‘Did you . . . see?’ Alfie croaked.
    ‘What in heaven’s name were you

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