She’d read about places like this. Safe-houses, crash pads, they were places where criminals came to hide away from the world. Acquiring property also allowed a criminal organisation to launder and invest its ill-gotten gains. She reckoned this place must be worth two million.
Moving quickly, she stalked back through the hallway to the other door. This must be the bathroom. Flinging the door open, the first things she saw were the packages in the dry bathtub. Wrapped in cloth, carefully tied, three of them were set carefully in the bottom, like presents ready to be handed out.
Something weird, she thought, hairs on her neck tingling.
Lifting one shape out, she was surprised at how light it felt. The string around it was knotted tight, so she darted back into the bedroom to fetch one of the sheathed knives, then returned to the bathroom, kneeling on the floor.
One stroke and the string parted.
She started unwrapping the package, and it was Lucy’s voice that spoke to her.
Just what the hell are you doing? the voice said. This has nothing to do with you.
“It is to do with me,” she said aloud. “It is!” Louder, and she found that speaking made her feel less afraid. Less secretive. This was to do with her, because Vince was hers and this place was his, and she had to know the truth. If he was into something criminal and perhaps dangerous, she needed to know. With what she knew already, there was no way she could just go back.
She closed her eyes and couldn’t help the flood of terrible images that came at her.
I’ll open this and it’ll be full of drugs. Vince has gone. I can’t reach him, and maybe he’s dead at the bottom of some canal or in a sewer, throat sliced and balls cut off and stuffed into his mouth. She knew how some of these gangs worked. She’d been studying them long enough.
She thought the notes in her back pocket were in his handwriting, but maybe she’d just wished that on them. Maybe they were the only warnings she’d get from whoever had done something terrible.
Opening the package, she sat back on the floor, looking down at the contents. It was a strange moment. To begin with she felt nothing, as if her mind was insulating her against the reaction that must surely come. Reaching out, considering that it might be some sort of joke, at the same time part of her knew it was not. Everything was too serious for this to be a prank.
The head was the size of a large potato. The skin was parchment dry, hair fine and knotted, teeth bared where the lips had drawn back over time. The incisors were much too long and still sharp.
One eye, closed, in the middle of the forehead.
One eye, Angela thought. She shook her head, trying to work out exactly what she was looking at. Alongside the head was a small business card. Its surface was dusted with—
—old skin, real skin, falling from this thing with one eye in the middle of its forehead, and creatures with one eye are called… were called—
—and Angela was all too familiar with the name and place printed there.
Courtesy of Frederick Meloy