Monday, 13 August 2012


Two months later, he and Jenny walked back up to the blackened, rain-rotten ruins of the old hotel, accompanied by a short and balding man known to them as Detective Miller. Detective Miller kept a cigarette behind his ear, and when he was thinking deeply he would remove it and put it in his mouth. Both Mark and Jenny liked him a lot.

"Take your time," he said. "We got all day if you need it."

"You're sure it's safe?" said Jenny. "Nothing, you know... lurking?"

"Not a flea," said Miller. "Whole site has been searched, sprayed to hell and back and searched again. All we're interested in now is any extra details you might remember."

They stopped and stood in the large gravel square that had once been the hotel car park. Jenny listened as Mark did the talking, telling of the final confrontation with Garmondy that had taken place here two months prior, pointing out the exact spot where each of the groups had stood.

Once he was done they set off around the wreck. Halfway along one wall a narrow corridor of yellow tape lead into the midst of the black mass of charcoaled wood and furniture. Even now it still smelled of ash and burned hair.

"That's where they broke through to the cellar," said Detective Miller. He paused. "We don't have to go down there if you don't want to."

"Thank God," said Jenny, finding that she was actually very glad to be spared a view of the basement itself. Since the events at the hotel she had learned that some things, once in your head, were difficult to forget. The feeling of a hundred fist-sized spiders eating you alive was one of them, and she suspected that the dark underground room in which her friend had died would be another.

"I'll go," said Mark, surprising her. When she tugged on his arm he turned to her and whispered. "I want to see. I owe it to him." He shifted uncomfortably, clearly not at home with emotional stuff.

"Well I'm going to wait up here," said Jenny. "Get my daily dose of fresh air, if that's okay with you guys."

"No problem," said Detective Miller. "We'll only be a minute." And with that he led Mark down the taped corridor to a place where a set of concrete stairs disappeared down into the ground. Jenny watched the two men pick their way out of sight, and then turned and surveyed the wreckage.

Something caught her eye. Something white in among all the burned black. She took a few steps closer to the tape and saw that there was something clean and rounded nestling among the charred beams and slurries of ash. It was only an arms-length away. If she just moved a couple of bits of wood she would be able to see what it was.

Jenny had never been one for letting CAUTION! tape stand in her way. She ducked beneath it and picked her way over to the object, snatched up the loose bits of wood that hid it from view and threw them aside. She saw then that it was not just one white object lying there in the ruins, but a clutch of several, five at least, each one about the size of a grapefruit. Her breath stalled in her throat.

They were eggs. Big, round, papery-white eggs.

Jenny reeled back, ripping through the tape in her haste. She turned to the dark entrance into which Detective Miller and Mark had descended. In the few seconds during which her back had been turned it seemed to have taken on a menacing air, waiting there like an open mouth.

"Mark?" she called, her voice quavering. "Mark, are you down there?"

There was no answer, but on the breeze that whistled through the ruins of the old hotel, Jenny could have sworn she heard something scuttle.

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