As I said last week, I’m trying to decide which project I’m going to work on for NaNoWriMo this year.
As usual, I have a choice of stories and I’ve narrowed it down to three. I’m taking a look at each of them, in turn.
The first one is featured today,
A Psychological Thriller.
He was only away for an hour, he left his wife and baby daughter in their broken-down car, parked in a layby.
When he returned, his car had moved. Now it was against a tree, a mile further down the road.
His wife had hit her head and lost her memory.
Worse than that, his one-year-old daughter was missing from the back seat.
The idea for this one came from a lot of little things. There’s revenge, unrequited love, a toxic family with secrets and an innocent child. My main character is a man caught up in the middle of it all. If you mix these elements in the right order, a pattern emerges.
Here’s how it begins.
With a grumbling growl, a breakdown van appeared outside, a huge crane on the back. A man in a stained boiler suit, heavy boots and a woolly hat came in.
“Morning, Terry,” he said. He looked at me. “Good morning, Sir.”
“Hello, George,” said Terry. “This is the gentleman. His cars stuck down by Annie’s old tea bar.”
“I know the place,” he said. “My garage is about half a mile past it. Just down in a dip, you probably wouldn’t have seen it from where you were. We’ll soon have you down there, we have a good workshop. With a bit of luck, we can have you on your way again today.”
I thanked him. “Don’t forget a coffee for your wife,” said Terry. I made her one and grabbed a juice drink for Lizzie. “How much do you want?” I asked him. “Don’t be silly,” he said. “We help each other out around here. It’s what we do. I hope you get it sorted.”
I went outside with George, clutching the coffee cup, the carton of juice in my pocket. Close up, his truck, with its crane on the back, was bigger than I had realised. There was an array of lights bolted onto the top of the cab.
“Jump in,” he said and I pulled myself up into the seat.
We set off down the road, the view from higher up was quite different, I could see over the hedges across fields that were starting to come to life as the sky lightened. George asked me what had happened. I explained it all again.
“Probably a Fox,” he said. “There’s plenty of them about this time of year. And the potholes are a nightmare. Some of them you could plant trees in, we tell the Council, but nothing much ever seems to get done. Where were you going?”
“We’re going down for a family reunion,” I told him, “in Cornwall. I thought we’d come down this way. I hate driving on motorways. It’s so boring.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Motorway driving is so monotonous, it makes me tired, especially at night. It’s a lot nicer run this way, enough corners and roundabouts to keep you awake. Once you get passed Plymouth though, the roads are all lanes.”
I recognised the corners, there was hardly any distance to go now and we’d be back at the layby. He pulled in, beside the still-closed café.
My car was gone.
“Thought you said you left it here,” he said.
“I did. It was barely drivable. It can’t have gone far.” I didn’t know what else to say.
“We haven’t passed it,” he added. It wouldn’t be going that way anyway, I thought. It almost sounded like he didn’t believe me, which got me angry.
“My wife’s not stupid,” I snapped. “She knows to wait here.” Even as I said it, I wondered what had happened to make her leave. There would have had to have been a good reason. “Sorry,” I added, “I’m getting concerned.”
“That’s OK, I can understand. I think you need to report it to someone,” he suggested. “I’ll take you on down to Honiton.”
I was starting to panic as we set off again. Very quickly, we passed a big garage on the left. “That’s my place,” George said. A bit further and we started to descend. The road closed in, there were steep banks and trees on other side.
Then there was a blue car. Off the road. On the verge. Its bonnet was bent around a large tree.
“Stop,” I shouted. “That’s my car.” George stopped the truck. He put the hazard lights on and reversed back up until we were level with it. We both jumped out and raced towards it in the flickering orange light.
There was a black line on the tarmac, showing where it had swerved and left the road. And it had hit the tree hard. The bonnet was crumpled. Steam was coming out of it. The front windscreen was shattered. I couldn’t see inside with the tinted windows and gloom.
“It hasn’t been here long,” he said. He pulled open the driver’s door. The seat was empty. “Is that your wife?” he asked. I peered past him, Rom was slumped against the door in the passenger seat. The airbags had deployed. I could see that her face was bloodied.
“Yeah, but I don’t understand why she’s on the passenger side. And what about Lizzie?” I wrenched at the back door. “My daughter. She’s in the child seat in the back.” “Lizzie,” I shouted,” don’t worry, daddy’s here.” There was no answer.
No matter how hard I tried to pull the door open, it wouldn’t move. In a panic, I went round the other side. After a struggle, I got it open. The back seat was empty. There was no child seat, no bags, no Lizzie. Where had she gone?
“We need to call the police, and an ambulance,” said George, reaching for his phone. I heard a groan and moved back around to the driver’s door. I was relieved to see that my wife had regained consciousness.
She shook her head. “Keep still,” I told her. “We’re getting an ambulance. What’s happened? Where’s Lizzie?”
She looked at me, the blank look of someone who had just woken up and didn’t know what was going on.
“Who are you?” she said. “And who’s Lizzie?”
I hope you enjoyed that. Next week, I’ll be sharing the second contender, My Sister Alex.
Do you want to know where it goes from here? Is this what I should be working on this November?
Why not comment below and give me your thoughts?
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