Read The Ties That Bind Online
Authors: Erin Kelly
Tags: #Crime, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Fiction
Also by Erin Kelly
The Poison Tree
The Sick Rose
The Burning Air
Erin Kelly is a freelance journalist and lives in London.
The Ties That Bind
First published in Great Britain in 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton
An Hachette UK company
Copyright © ES Moylan Ltd 2014
The right of Erin Kelly to be identified as the Author of the
Work has been asserted by her in accordance with
the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any
means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be
otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that
in which it is published and without a similar condition being
imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance
to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library
eBook ISBN 978 1 444 72838 5
Hardback ISBN 978 1 444 72836 1
Trade paperback ISBN 978 1 444 72837 8
Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
338 Euston Road
London NW1 3BH
For Michael, again
‘Almost all of our relationships begin and most of them continue as forms of mutual exploitation, a mental or physical barter, to be terminated when one or both parties run out of goods.’
‘Brighton, my burglar bride!’
I Knew I Was Right
When Luke came round, he knew two things. Firstly, that he was still alive and secondly, that he was still in Brighton. In the initial seconds of consciousness he was more sure about the second thing than the first. It was the falling caw of the gulls, that seaside constant, that told him where he was, and the pain that told him
There were too many obstacles to thought. The seared skin at his wrists and ankles, the thirst, the cold, his bursting bladder, the muscle cramps, the stifling press of the bag over his head and the rough dry rasp of the gag between his tongue and the roof of his mouth. These agonies took it in turns to manifest themselves, circling relentlessly like horses on a beachside carousel. He had been hit on the back of the head, but the wound itself was strangely numb; he was more bothered by the itch where something sticky had dripped down the back of his neck, then cooled and dried.
For all that Luke had read, thought and written about other people’s pain, he had had only glancing experience of it himself. He was astonished by how much energy suffering consumed, and dismayed at how the essential powers of logic, reason and memory were obliterated.
He had always been proud of his memory – for a writer, recall is everything – yet now he was unable even to bring to mind the last place he had been conscious. He could remember the weeks that had led up to this moment, but not the hours. He didn’t know what he had done the previous day. He could remember the people who were currently in his life, but not when he had last seen any of them.
If only he knew where he was. The cold and the stench of damp suggested that he was underground, but he could not even be sure of that. He would focus then on what he did know, or what he could feel, which was much the same thing. Coarse thin rope bound together his wrists and ankles, then caught them both behind his back so that his spine was bent backwards in a C-shape. He could not see it but guessed that it was a single length of cord that held him like this, secured by three knots. Luke took a perverse comfort in the fact that he could identify the method of his restraint. Joss Grand had devised this prison of knots as a torture device over fifty years ago, but he would not be capable of administering it now, or at least, not alone. Even with Luke’s limited recall, he knew exactly who would have helped him.
They had warned Luke not to write the book, to leave Grand alone. But no: he had known better, he
better. Or so he had believed. But why would they do this to him, or rather, why now? As far as Luke could remember, the book had finally begun to take shape. After a shaky start, the interviews were going well; their last session had been the best yet. Had Grand changed his mind? Was this his way of taking back his words? If anything, it was Luke who should be angry with Grand, the way he had . . .
. If Grand had found out about Luke’s connection with Sandy, then of
he would be angry. He would be furious. Luke felt sick. He had promised to protect her, and he had failed. He could not bear to think what kind of punishment they would give her, and hoped desperately that some vestige of chivalry prevailed and they would not be torturing
like this. Luke thought that he could take twice this pain if it meant that she suffered none and, like all atheists in time of crisis, offered up this bargain in the form of a prayer. He rolled gently to the left to test for the press of the phone in his pocket. It was missing, but the action caused a fresh wave of pain that threw him onto his side and left him panting with the shock of it.
Something precious – a memory – slithered through the gaps between breaths. Grand wasn’t the only person who knew about this truss. Jem had seen the drawings Luke had made, and had been disgusted and confused by them. Was Jem capable of doing this just to teach Luke a lesson? Once he would have said not, but now nothing would surprise him. Jem had always said that Luke was out of his depth and perhaps this was his way of proving it. Jem . . . Luke found that despite everything, he longed to see him. At least if it was Jem’s doing, it would mean that Sandy was not at risk, and there was a chance that Luke could free himself with sweet lies and hollow apology. Was this professional violence or a personal punishment? And which was worse?
He tried again to retrace the steps he had made earlier in the day, but it was no good. He had the feeling that there was something important, like a forgotten essential on a shopping list, something vital just out of his reach. Images of metal glimmered in and out of his mind’s eye, as though seen by candlelight. A dull gold bar, a spinning silver wheel, crucial images that he could not put into context. The faster his mind chased those thoughts, the more distant they became.
He was weakening by the second. Even under the hood, his vision was failing. A new, deeper darkness seemed to be closing in on him. In terror, he focused on the one sense that could still serve him, straining to hear through the cloth that covered his ears.
. No voices, no footsteps, no slamming car doors. No one was near.
The sounds of civilisation fell away one by one. Somewhere, a screaming siren was silenced. Then through deep ground came faint vibrations as though from a passing lorry or train. Then only a shrieking wind rattled a window. Then only the slow falling cry of the gulls. And then not even that.
One Week Earlier
Tuesday 5 November 2013 15:52
Hope all’s well. As requested, I’m attaching the opening pages of the story I’ve been working on down here in Brighton. Of course, I haven’t got the ‘money shot’ yet, and it’s still very much a work in progress at this stage. But I’m days away from getting a confession from him, I can feel it. Once he’s talked, we can decide how best to pitch this to publishers. In the meantime, I’m keen (nervous!) to hear what you think.
Attached document: GRAND_Chapter1
Joss Grand is nothing to do with Brighton’s most prestigious hotel although when, occasionally, a connection is assumed he does little to dispel the assumption. The Grand Hotel has long stood for much that Joss Grand values: it is genteel, respectable, civilised, world-renowned, its lacy Regency façade redolent of white gloves and parasols, afternoon tea and evening promenades. More recently it has become associated with weddings, conferences and spa days. There are liveried porters on the door and a Steinway piano nestles amid the potted palms of the atrium.
Behind the hotel, the city crawls uphill from the sea. These back streets are the ones that Grand and his partner in crime, Jacky Nye, ruled with free fists and promises of terror for the best part of a decade. In the early sixties their firm was founded on illicit drinking and gambling dens, protectioneering and violence.