We're delighted to present an extract from One Bad Turn, the acclaimed new thriller from acclaimed crime writer (and RTÉ Arts Correspondent) Sinead Crowley.
Being held hostage at gunpoint by her childhood friend is not Dr Heather Gilmore's idea of a good day at work. It only gets worse when she hears that her nineteen-year-old daughter Leah has been kidnapped.
Sergeant Claire Boyle wasn't expecting to get caught up in a hostage situation during a doctor's appointment. When it becomes apparent that the kidnapping is somehow linked to the hostage-taker, a woman called Eileen Delaney, she is put in charge of finding the missing girl.
What happened between Eileen and Heather to make Eileen so determined to ruin her old friend? Claire Boyle must dig up the secrets from their pasts to find out - and quickly, because Leah is still missing, and time is running out to save her...
There was no need to think about where she was going: her feet knew the way. Down the path, out of the gate, a right turn when she reached the pavement. There was no need to make any plans or decisions. Leah just needed to run.
And to think, a little over a year ago, she hadn’t been able to jog for more than five minutes without nearly collapsing. God, the state of her! It made her totally cringe just to think of how pathetic she’d been. Barely able to reach the end of the road without bending over, crippled by a stitch, redfaced, sweating and terrified she’d bump into someone she knew. Now, lacing up her trainers and getting moving had become, quite simply, the best part of Leah Gilmore’s day. Not that she’d ever admit that to her mother, of course. The old dear would ratchet up even more points on the smug scale, and that was the last thing she needed.
Everything else in Leah’s life was a total mess. She had no money, no college place, no one to hang out with now her friends were all busy settling into their new lives. There were no jobs in Fernwood for someone with her lack of experience and references, and her mother had made it
quite clear that an allowance was, for the moment at least, out of the question: ‘Not after the way you spent it last time. Come back to me next year and we can discuss it again.’
A year. That was what her mum insisted Leah needed to get her life back in order. A year of studying, living quietly at home and watching TV every night, sharing a sofa with her mother and that pain in the arse she’d married. It would only take twelve months. ‘Nothing, in the scheme of things,’ she kept saying. Leah wondered if her mother realized how ancient that made her sound. Twelve months seemed a hell of a long time to her. The trouble was, though, she had no option other than to go along with her mother’s wishes. After all, as she kept reminding her, there was no plan B. Don’t think. Keep running.
A car passed, a hand waved. Leah couldn’t see the driver, but nodded anyway. It was most likely a friend of her mother’s, or the mother of a friend. That was how it was in a village like Fernwood. You couldn’t sneeze in your kitchen without somebody two doors down asking about your cold. Leah had lived in Fernwood for all of her nineteen years, in the same house for the first sixteen, and now she was back there again, dependent on her mother and stepdad for everything, like some little kid. One day she’d get away but, for the moment, running around the block would have to do.
Slap-pad, slap-pad. She speeded up as she passed the steps to the beach, but the boy’s face still popped into her head, like it always did at this point in the run. Just as quickly, she shoved the memory aside. Obsessing over what had happened wouldn’t change anything. At least that was something Leah and her mum could agree on. There was no point in thinking about Alan Delaney any more. Much better to forget him and to move forward. To run.
Leah’s breath was coming in short pants now, her cheeks rosy as she navigated the hill.
‘Duration, four kilometres.’
The mechanical voice from her running app helped urge her on. She’d share the achievement on Facebook when she’d finished. Until a year ago every picture had shown her and her friends duck-faced and pouting, bottles in their hands, smeared glasses on the tables in front of them. Arms held at an angle to emphasize their waists, boobs stuck forward into the camera lens. Leah couldn’t remember the last time she’d had a night out like that, or been tagged in someone else’s photograph. Posting about her runs proved she was still alive.
Lost in thought, she didn’t realize how far she’d come until she reached the entrance to the car park. Brilliant. She was more than halfway up the slope now with most of the hard work behind her. For the first time Leah allowed herself to look up to where the top of Kennockmore Hill loomed over her. If she squinted she could even see the Victorian folly on top, where at weekends Spanish students asked locals to take their photo, Dublin Bay sparkling behind them. Today, midweek, it would be quieter – there would be only a couple of dog-walkers up there, or one of Fernwood’s better-known residents taking a ramble on a day when they were unlikely to be hassled for a selfie. The number of singers and film stars who had made Fernwood their home had earned it the title of Dublin’s ‘rockbroker belt’. In the past, the sheer numbers of well-known residents in the village had allowed them to hang together and create a semblance of a private life, but the advent of the camera phone had made that far more difficult, even halfway up Kennockmore Hill. It was almost impossible, these days, to keep anything offline.
No – don’t go there, Leah, don’t think. Just run.
The pavement was curving downwards now, following the base of the hill, and Leah felt the tension in her muscles ease, her weight fall forward slightly. She was coming up to the entrance to the children’s playground. After that the road would take a steep turn downwards and she’d be
flying. She’d be home in twenty minutes, maybe, and, yeah, perhaps she should enter a race or something, like her dad was always telling her to do; nothing major, just a five k, just something to test herself against, it would be nice to have something to— Jesus Christ! The blow to her side almost pushed her over and her arms flailed as her feet scrabbled for purchase on the ground. But the elderly lady wasn’t so lucky – she’d gone down hard and Leah had to pitch to one side to avoid falling on top of her.
‘Oh, my God! Are you all right?’
Leah dropped to her knees. The gravel underneath her stung, but she was so panicked she barely felt it. Christ – she’d been sprinting, hadn’t even seen the woman who had walked out of a small pedestrian gate. She hadn’t hit her head, had she? Or broken a hip? The woman, grey curls in disarray under a purple felt hat, was lying on the ground, facing away from her.
‘Oh, my God,’ Leah repeated. Even though ‘Not again’ was what she really wanted to say.
Please, not again. Don’t let somebody else die, I couldn’t bear it.
But the words wouldn’t form. Instead, she reached out one hand and touched the woman on the shoulder.
Leah turned in relief to see a tall, dark-haired man looming over them.
‘Mam, are you okay?’
‘Oh, thank God.’
She scrambled to her feet and squinted at him. The man had jumped out of a red Hiace van. In his panic he’d left the engine running and the sliding door at the side stood wide open.
‘I didn’t even see her – I think she’s hurt.’
But the man ignored her, just bent over his mother and touched her on the shoulder.
‘Come on now, Mam, we’ll get you back in the van.’
‘Maybe we should call an ambulance—’
Leah’s words disappeared as the man turned and delivered a quick jab to her stomach. Winded, taken utterly by surprise, she stumbled backwards. In one swift moment he picked up her legs and tossed her into the open vehicle.
‘She’s in – move.’
The woman wasn’t old at all, Leah saw, as she lay on the floor of the van, her mouth open, too winded even to scream. She was only her mother’s age, wearing a wig. And now she couldn’t see her at all because the man was standing in the door, blocking her from view.
‘This is for Alan Delaney,’ he snarled at her. And then he slammed the door.
Leah’s last thought, before a sharp turn flung her onto her side and drove everything but wild panic from her mind, was that of a toddler, lost in a department store:
Mummy, please find me. I want to go home.
One Bad Turn is published by Hachette