Juliet is used to wielding power and influence in her line
of work, but when her beloved niece dies, she finds herself
powerless in the face of her grief and has doubts over the
coroner’s report of suicide.
She travels back to her family’s remote coastal home
where Beth was found. As Juliet delves deeper into the
investigation, her personal and professional lives collide
and she unwittingly finds herself pitted against dangerous
opposition who seem intent on silencing her.
In order to expose the truth behind her niece’s death,
Juliet must face the fact that nobody in her life is who she
previously thought them to be – including herself.
As she runs along the beach, she knows it’s the last time she’ll see the mudflats at Culbin. She can’t bear to look back at the house, to search for wood smoke still unfurling into the sky like a child’s drawing. She turns instead to the sea, to this stretch of Moray coast that used to bring her comfort. Ignoring the cold, she takes off her shoes and hurries towards the water’s edge.
Where the sand darkens she falters, but the sea surges on, skirting around and behind her as if determined to reach the bands of driftwood and mussel shell middens at the edge of the forest. A few metres away, the waves smack and slap against a natural causeway of sandbars; droplets fling themselves upwards into the salty air, where they hang for a moment, before squirming, finally, across the map of rippled silt below her feet.
She doesn’t even notice the sensation of cold water on her toes. Her eyes are fixed now on the Firth beyond: a pewter mass, rising and falling rhythmically against the white-grey sky. She can just see the Hippo, the rock she used to try to swim to as a little girl, four hundred metres out.
He’s watching her from the treeline. She hears his voice again, calling her name. She takes a step.
They find her body on the shore on a summer afternoon.
The air near the forest is fizzing with midges, so the family stay close to the water’s edge, their frisbee dipping and soaring on a gentle breeze between father, mother and son. It drifts just over eleven-year-old Jacob’s head, and he races backwards, all golden agile limbs over pale, worm-like sand, his eyes on the red disc spinning in slow motion in the air above him.
He almost falls over her.
Later, the pathologist will find wounds on the top and back of her head. But Jacob, thankfully, can’t see these, for all his staring.
She has short, dark blonde hair, and is very slight, dressed in a bright green bikini top, orange cotton shorts, and no shoes. Her bikini is askew, so Jacob’s dad covers her up with one of their faded stripy beach towels. Apart from his mother’s, it’s the first time Jacob has ever seen breasts.
The only other signs of injury are on the girl’s toes, knuckles, and the front of her wrists – damaged so badly that waxy bones are visible, threading through blackened holes in her skin, like a plant taking root.
Thank you, Deborah O’Donoghue and Legend Press.
About the author
Deborah studied English and
French at the University of
Sussex, and Performing Arts
at the Sorbonne, before
teaching for ten years. She
has also worked in car body
repairs, in the best fish and
chip shop in Brighton, and as
a gopher in a comedy club.