This is a my latest project and WIP. Journey – Beneath the Surface is an adventure story for children aged 9 +. Nathan and Erin, twelve-year-old twins are on the run, pursued by their Mother’s kidnappers. They need to find her – fast!
A crash came from below.
Nathan dropped his book and torch. The thin beam of light disappeared as it bounced onto the sheet next to him. He wrenched the duvet from over his head and blinked. It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust to the darkness in his bedroom. He turned his head towards the door to hear the noises coming from the room beneath.
WHAT was going on?
Nathan threw the covers off and tiptoed across the room. He pulled the door slowly towards him. The light from the beaded lampshade cast a strange shadow making the spindles from the stairs look like the bars of a cell on the floor of the hall below.
His mother’s voice.
Not unusual, except it was joined by the deeper tones of a man’s as well. Ordinarily he would have been pleased to hear another man’s voice in the house. There was only his twin sister Erin, and Mum at home and Mum rarely had visitors.
Certainly not this late anyway.
He heard the familiar squeak as the living room door opened.
‘WHERE IS IT?’
There was the sound of a slap followed by a muffled yelp. Nathan drew his head back slightly behind the door and clutched his fingers together. He glanced towards his bedside table for his phone. It wasn’t there. He remembered it was still sitting on the kitchen counter attached to the charger. What should he do? Maybe he could cause a diversion? But what? Something noisy. Enough to give Erin time to escape? If she could get away she could fetch help.
‘Where is it?’ He heard the man bark. ‘Upstairs?’
Through the narrow gap he saw Mum pushed towards the front door by a man dressed in a dark uniform, the light bouncing from the reflective strips across his chest. Mum’s hands were handcuffed. Strands from her normally tidy ponytail clung to her face. She turned her head. Her cheek was crimson and blood was running from her nose. Nathan put his hand over his mouth to shield a gasp.
‘No! Not upstairs!’ Mum replied. A little too quickly. ‘It’s not here.’ Nathan saw her glance up the stairs in his direction.
The man pushed past her, his foot on the first step. ‘What about the kids? They up there?’
‘No! Nobody’s up there! They’re at their grandmother’s.’ Mum pleaded, tears running down her cheeks. The man paused, his hand on the hand rail and turned to look at her. ‘It’s at the lab. I’ll take you.’
‘You know what we’ll do if you’re lying,’ he threatened. He turned back towards his accomplice. His next words caused Nathan’s heart to beat so fast he thought it would explode. ‘I’ll have a quick scout around up here. You get her in the car.’
Nathan shot across his bedroom and lifted up the padded top of the latticed window seat scattering the few books piled neatly on the top against the ledge. It had been a favourite place to hide when he and Erin were smaller, but now it was only used for storing games. He climbed in and closed the lid, wishing he’d cleared out more when Mum had asked. It was a tight squeeze. The corner of a box pressed into his ribs. His eyes scanned the dim room through the wooden slats. The light from his fish tank gave an eerie glow. He heard his mother’s bedroom door open. Nathan sunk lower and pushed his leg against the cardboard. His heart was beating rapidly and his throat felt as though he had a band wrapped tightly around it. A marble rattled against plastic and he placed his hand on his thigh to stop it shaking. He heard drawers being opened and shut. He wished he was invisible. If the man came and did the same in each room, he would quickly be discovered.
He heard footsteps. Erin’s door crashed against the wall. Nathan’s mouth was dry. He licked his lips trying to find something to wet it. His pyjama top was twisted and clinging to his sides. He’d had no time to go and warn her. Had she been awake too, listening like him or was she sound asleep? What if she hadn’t had time to hide? What would the man do when he found her? If he was prepared to hit Mum, there was nothing to say he wouldn’t do the same to Erin. Or worse? He would be angry Mum had lied.
Nathan clenched his teeth to resist the urge to straighten his leg and clear the tingling in his toes. He took a deep breath. He would spring out of the seat and shout. Loud. Loud enough to be heard in the next village. He would. One…two…
Nathan heard footsteps approach along the landing. Three bedrooms. The next one was his.
His mind raced. How on earth had this man missed Erin asleep in her bed? He fought for an explanation. He tried desperately not to move but the tingle of pins and needles had reached up his shin. He dug his nails into his palms.
His door flung open. Nathan held his breath. The image of a large man stood in the doorway, silhouetted against the landing light. He took two strides into the room. He paused outside the closed cupboard doors at the foot of the bed. With a force that left the wooden doorknob in his hand, the man jerked opened the cupboard door. Nathan’s cricket bat and three, hard, red balls fell from the top shelf, just missing the man’s foot.
‘Bloody hell! What the …’ the man swore as he hopped to avoid them. He picked up the rubber handle of the bat and aimed a sweeping blow at the fish tank on top of a chest of drawers. Nathan heard a cracking sound as the glass splintered.
‘What the hell are you doing up there?’ A voice came bellowing from the hall. ‘Get a move on. We’ve got to get back.’
‘Okay, okay. Why have you left her alone? Get back to the car. I’ve finished up here anyway.’
Nathan held his breath and waited. The man bounded down the stairs, slammed the front door and crunched over the drive to get into the waiting car. The wheels spun firing gravel into the air. Nathan kicked open the window seat and clambered out. He stamped his foot to get rid of the numbness and looked around his room. The cricket bat was flung on to his bed, the balls had rolled under the chair. The glass fish tank had a long, jagged split across the corner. He rushed to the landing window just as the car tail lights disappeared around the corner of the lane.
Erin! Nathan open his sister’s door and scanned the room. The room was a tip. Erin was the untidiest person he’d ever known. Clothes, books and make-up were strewn on every surface and all over the floor. He kicked a bag by his foot.
‘Erin, where are you?’ Nathan called as he rubbed the back of his neck. He opened the pine wardrobe door, brushing aside the dresses to rummage through the magazines and shoes that filled the bottom. There wasn’t room for a twelve-year-old girl. He scanned the room again. There was nowhere else that a body could disappear. If she was hiding she must have vanished into thin air.
‘Erin?’ He called louder. ‘Where the hell are you?’