A few hours later…
Mia sat in the hospital emergency room with a bandage holding back the gashing wound on her forehead. She had needed stitches and despite the pain, all she had really wanted was to just close her eyes and fall into a deep sleep. She wished the last night had been nothing but a bad dream and she wished that she could wake up and sigh with relief, realising that she had finally finished her book.
The fire had started off by consuming the pages of the book that she had spent many painstaking months working on. Mia had escaped, looking back over her shoulder and seeing smoke coming out of the windows. She had held on to her bruised head, her gait unstable as she took one tired step after another trying to get as further away from the cottage as she could.
A payphone had been in sight and she had made her way towards it, lifting the receiver and dialling the emergency number. Fire brigade, she had spoken coarsely, giving the address. She had placed the receiver back still holding on to it, head hanging low and her breathing slow and forced. Her headache got the better of her and she had wiped the blood that kept seeping from the wound in her forehead on her sleeve.
Mia had called Lillian Grainger shortly after with the loose change that she had accidentally found in her cardigan pocket; presumably left there from the time when she was still smoking and would have needed enough money to rush out on her bicycle for a packet of cigarettes from the small shop down the road. Mia had rambled incoherently about the book, the last chapter, the evilness that had taken hold over her and finally the fire. Lillian had rushed soon after and on seeing Mia’s state had driven her straight to the hospital.
Mia looked up and saw Lillian walk over with two steaming cups.
“The coffee machine was broken. All the cafeteria could offer was this… this version of… tea. A herbal tea of some sort,” said Lillian making a face as she gulped down a mouthful.
The hot drink warmed Mia up and she took a few more sips before finding her voice.
“I’m really sorry about what happened, Lil. The cottage…”
“The cottage will survive,” interrupted Lillian. “Now, we’re going to finish this – this fantastic drink and then we’ll head back to see what we find there.”
Mia fidgeted with the cup in her hands for a few seconds at the mention of the cottage. She had been having trouble concentrating in her city flat, so when Lillian had offered that she use her country cottage as a writing retreat, Mia had jumped at the suggestion. It was meant to provide the perfect setting for her to work on her dark and dangerous novel. The past month had been the worst as she struggled to find a suitable ending.
“Did you find the backup?” Mia managed to hold back the tears of exhaustion.
Lillian nodded and produced the memory stick from her handbag, “Yes, it’s all here, all except for the last chapter, of course.”
Lillian was her friend first and foremost before she considered her a publisher. It would not be the first time that Lillian would help her deal with a nasty ending to a book and a persistently stubborn evil protagonist.
Mia sighed and ran her fingers through her hair as she thought of the last chapter. She had really tried every way she could think of. This time, good had to overcome evil. She had to kill him off. It was either that or allow the evil force to kill, Gibbs, her main character. Gibbs was supposed to have been the next victim and she was not prepared to kill off the hero.
Moments later they were on the road. They stopped by Lillian’s office to drop off the memory stick which had the only copy of the book that existed and they had to keep it safe. Soon after, they were on their way back towards the cottage but they were not quite prepared for the scene that met them when they arrived.
Police cars were parked outside the cottage and the entrance was cordoned off so that they could not get in. Lillian jammed the car to a halt and jumped out, running towards the nearest officer. Mia followed as she tried to catch up.
“What happened?” panted Mia.
“I’m sorry, ladies, but you’re not allowed in there,” said a policeman as he waved for one of the detectives to come forward.
“But this is my cottage!” cried Lillian.
“Well, perhaps you can help then, Ms uhh Grainger,” said a detective who looked up from the flipbook that he was holding. “There was a fire and we got a call from the firemen when they found the body. There’s been a murder. It seems that there was a struggle. Does the name Gibbs mean anything to you?”
Lillian flicked a look at Mia then back at the detective, her eyes wide with shock. Lillian gulped as she shook her head. Mia felt her headache coming back and flinched, sensing a ripple of fear run through her.
“Can you tell me where you were between five am and nine am?” continued the detective, addressing Lillian.
“A murder. But there’s been no one else here,” Mia spoke faintly, mumbling to herself, “Gibbs? But it can’t be.”
The detective turned his attention to Mia who had drifted towards the cottage entrance, picking up her pace and brushing past the officers as she crossed over the bright yellow do-not-enter tape.
“Lady, you can’t go in. Hey!”
Mia stared in disbelief as she stood before the body of a dead man lying on the ground. On his forehead were etched the letters of his name in black: G.I.B.B.S. It was the same method of marking that she had described her evil protagonist as using in her book to kill all of his previous victims.
A few hours later…