“Did you hear about the killing...”
“In Johnson’s wood yeh,” Tara Smith cut across Sasha as she and Simon sat in Scrumpy Joe’s a few minutes later waiting for the meals they’d ordered “Sarah’s brother works with the police, he was out in the woods today when they brought they body up. Apparently it was disgusting, mauled and everything”
It seemed to Simon that, despite his dad’s interests to keep the killing under wraps, word was travelling slowly but surely.
“I heard your dad was in charge of collecting the body Si” Tara said excitedly to Simon.
“Yeh he was,” Simon nodded “said he wanted the whole thing kept under wraps”
“Not gonna happen I’m afraid,” laughed Tara “half the school seems to know, it’ll be the latest gossip by tonight I’m telling you”
Simon laughed “Makes celebrity gossip almost look attractive doesn’t it? At least nobody dies... well most of the time” he added quickly.
Tara and Sasha chuckled at this “But what do you guys reckon did it?” Tara asked.
“My dad says it was an animal” Simon told her.
“An animal?” Tara scoffed “rubbish! There haven’t been any animals bigger than a squirrel seen in those woods since the early nineteen hundreds. That’s army intelligence for you... no offence to your dad like” she nodded to Simon.
“Thanks Tara,” laughed Simon “if it wasn’t an animal what do you think it was?”
“I reckon,” Tara lowered her voice as if about to reveal her innermost, groundbreaking secret “I reckon... it was man slaughter”
“I don’t think it was,” said Sasha quickly “but Doctor Neil is leading the forensic post-mortem tonight, so we’ll know for sure then”
Simon and Tara looked at each other; Sasha’s admiration for Doctor Charlie Neil knew no bounds.
At that moment, the door chimed and Kirsten entered, looking rather happy about something.
“Get Just-in-case to his lesson on time then?” Sasha joked as her friend sat down.
“Yes” said Kirsten, and looked ready to continue, but seemed to stop herself. Simon could only guess that a line relating to how she loved Justin or some kind of girly giggle between her and Sasha was meant to follow, but it wasn’t, and the slight glance Kirsten gave him when she sat down seemed to confirm why.
Simon knew he’d feel his blood boil if the two did begin to talk on Kirsten’s relationship with Justin, and whilst he was glad they would not be discussing it, he couldn’t help but feel a stem of guilt deep down, he felt slightly awkward that Kirsten felt she couldn’t speak freely around him.
Sasha noticed what was going on and stepped in “Just on a side note, you guys still in for tomorrow”
Simon did a double take, and then assured her that he was. In all the talk of killings and creatures in the woods he’d completely forgotten that Sasha was eighteen tomorrow, and thanks to her eighteenth falling on a Saturday, she was able to host a house party for it. Now he remembered what he’d been looking forward to all week.
“Sure there’s nothing we can bring?” Tara asked.
Sasha shook her head “I’m sending Simon and Matt out for booze,” she grinned “right Si?”
Simon was staring intently on the pavement over the road that he could see through the window of the cafe, his eyes full of horror. It took a second “Si?” from Kirsten for him to awaken, and quickly nodded “Yeh, sure” before turning back to the window.
It was gone.
He looked back up to his friends, who where giving him funny looks, and grinned to assure them that everything was all right “Didn’t sleep much last night,” he laughed “good film on, not with it today”
The truth was that he was wide awake, and that was what worried him more. Across the road, on the deserted pavement, he was sure that, just for a second, he saw something. Some kind of creature. In the split second he’d been able to make it out as a strange, eerie purple colour, walking on what would seem to be its four legs, yet they were like daggers, and huge, squid-like tentacles pouring from his mouth.
Yet now it had gone. Well, gone was not the right word, really, was it? After all, he must have imagined it. Mustn’t he?
“Yes,” he decided “I imagined it. “Maybe I should have got more sleep last night. Trick of the light”
Blaming the sunlight of a ridiculously cloudy January Friday, he tried hard to shrug off what he’d spotted, and turned back to his friends.