Sins of the Father, the third instalment of the Runaway Girl series is published next Tuesday! And to give you a taster, here’s the first chapter. Or more accurately – The Prologue.
She should have noticed that the dog was there, but she had been preoccupied with finding her way in the fog.
‘Did it bite you? Where? Let me take a look at your hand.’ She scooped up the wailing little girl and kicked the skinny dog. It snapped at her foot and sauntered back into the mist.
The girl’s face was chubby, red and creased with crying. She examined the cold, plump hand. Spots of blood were appearing in the deep white dents in the skin. The bite looked nastier than she had first thought.
‘There, there, don’t cry Mary. We can clean it up when we get home.’ She knew she wasn’t telling the truth.
They weren’t going back home.
Mary started screaming and blood began to pour from her hand.
She didn’t want the child to yell; the noise would draw attention to them. She placed Mary on the ground and lifted the large leather bag from her shoulder. She hurriedly rummaged through the clothes to see whether she had anything she could wrap around the girl’s wounded hand. The light was fading fast.
‘Shush now, your hand will be fine.’
Spots of blood dripped onto the frozen mud. The girl continued to cry.
‘Mama! Want Mama!’
‘Shush! You’ll see Mama soon. Let me look after your hand first.’
She pulled a white woollen bonnet out of the bag and wrapped it around the wound.
She could feel people’s eyes on her and a ball of tension grew steadily in her chest. Gritting her teeth, she tried not to show any impatience with the child. They both needed to remain calm.
‘There, it’s all bandaged up now.’ She would have to clean the wound properly later.
‘Mama!’ The little girl tugged at her skirts, pulling her backwards in the direction of her home.
‘Yes, yes. We’ll see Mama soon.’ She put the bag back on her shoulder and held the girl by her uninjured hand. ‘This way.’
Mary resisted. She was only two years old but she knew which direction her house was in.
‘Mama! Go home, see Mama!’
She gripped the little hand tighter. ‘Yes, we will. This is another way we can go to get there.’
Her teeth were now clenched so tightly that her jaw ached. ‘Mama is this way!’ she said impatiently.
She picked the little girl up and Mary kicked her legs against her thigh. She gripped on to her and carried her down the street. A lady in a fur-lined hood gave her a sympathetic smile as she passed by.
‘Mama!’ yelled the little girl, reaching over her shoulder and almost causing her to overbalance.
It was as if the girl knew she was being taken.
Mary cried louder and hit her about the head with her rag doll. The blood-stained bonnet bandage was coming away from the girl’s hand.
She would have to hurry.
Breaking out into a stumbling run, she carried the girl as tightly as she could with the bag thumping against her legs. The fog was so thick it was difficult to find the lane. Mary made a guttural wailing sound: a horrible rasping noise that came from the back of her throat. She wanted to slap the girl’s cheek to make it stop.
This is what she was going to have to put up with now. The girl would never be happy about being separated from her mother.
Luckily the street wasn’t as busy as usual. The freezing fog had already forced many people into the warmth of their homes. Those who didn’t have homes were finding shelter in doorways and under carts for the night.
It was hard to concentrate on where she was going with the girl’s crying ringing in her ears. She turned left at the crossroads and headed for The Three Cranes tavern. She cursed the girl for crying so loudly and the dog for having bitten her and causing this noise and fuss to begin with. If they hadn’t encountered the dog, she would have been able to make the journey quietly and easily.
The crying continued and she noticed that her cloak was stained with fresh blood.
‘Excuse me.’ A man’s voice came from behind her.
She turned to see him holding up the blood-soaked bonnet.
‘You dropped this.’ He had a kind face, and several strands of shaggy grey hair had escaped from beneath his hood.
She snatched the bonnet from him and muttered a quick thank you.
‘There is a barber-surgeon in the next lane,’ he said. ‘You need to get the girl’s hand treated. It looks to be in quite a sorry state.’
She ignored him and tried to carry on running. Her arms ached from carrying Mary.
‘You’re a heavy lump,’ she muttered. ‘Your mother feeds you too many pie crusts.’
The girl’s cries had calmed to a quiet whimper. Her fat cheeks were stained with tears and blood from where she had wiped her face with her injured hand.
The sign for The Three Cranes emerged in the fog and she turned down a nearby passageway. The child in her arms fell silent as they walked in the gloom. She stopped and knocked at the third doorway from the left. She didn’t have to wait long for an answer. The door swung open and there he was in the doorway.
‘Here you are at last,’ he said, smiling. ‘Bring her in.’
Sins of the Father is currently available at a special pre-order price of 99p / 99¢. Visit the book page for links to Amazon, Kobo and iBooks to take advantage of this offer.