River­side

Who had taken lit­tle Sarah from her bed?

The People's Friend - - This Week - by Glenda Young

WHAT do you mean, Sarah’s gone?” Mary asked her daugh­ter. “I just checked on her half an hour ago –”

“Mum!” Su­san cried. “She’s not in her bed!”

Su­san turned and ran back up­stairs, with Mary and George close be­hind, des­per­ate to find out what was go­ing on.

The party con­tin­ued in their liv­ing-room with the other guests obliv­i­ous to the drama.

“Look!” Su­san pointed at the empty bed.

The flow­ered blue du­vet had been turned back on the bed, as if the child had sim­ply been lifted from be­neath.

Mary stared at the empty bed. She’d placed her grand­daugh­ter there ear­lier that night, be­fore the party guests ar­rived. She’d read three sto­ries to her and sung her favourite lul­laby.

“Where is she, Mum?” Su­san cried. “Some­one’s taken her. I know it!”

Mary hugged her daugh­ter to her, try­ing to make sense of what was go­ing on. But try as she might, she could find no log­i­cal ex­pla­na­tion.

Their front door had been locked all night; no-one could have got in­side with­out a key. No-one could have taken the child.

Mary swung round when she heard a noise be­hind her out on the land­ing. “George?” she called out. “There’s some­one here, Mary,” George said sternly. “Some­one who needs to ex­plain her­self. I’ve just found her sit­ting on the edge of our bed with Sarah in her arms.”

Mary looked be­yond George and, sure enough, there was a woman in their bed­room.

She was the same woman who had crept into the house an hour ago, unan­nounced and un­in­vited, and in her arms she was cradling Sarah, who was fast asleep.

Re­lieved, Su­san gen­tly lifted her child from the woman’s arms and took her back to bed.

From her spot on the land­ing, Mary pushed the door closed so that Su­san couldn’t hear the choice words she had for the woman.

“Doreen!” Mary hissed. “What on earth are you do­ing?”

“I was about to ask the same ques­tion my­self,” George barked. “You’ve given us all a fright, Doreen.

“You weren’t in­vited tonight. How did you get in?”

Doreen looked from Mary to her brother, then pat­ted her coat pocket.

“I’ve still got my spare key. I needed a bit of peace and quiet, so I headed up­stairs and heard Sarah cry­ing. So I lifted her from her bed and –”

“Doreen, lis­ten to me,” George told his sis­ter. “You can’t just turn up unan­nounced and take our grand­child like that. Where’s Jack?”

Doreen rolled her eyes to the ceil­ing and tut­ted. “Jack? That old fool?” George sighed heav­ily. “Don’t tell me you two have been ar­gu­ing again? So you let your­self in here, think­ing your lit­tle brother would look af­ter you. You never thought to ask?”

Doreen bris­tled at George’s words.

“I thought fam­ily were sup­posed to look af­ter each other?”

Mary put her hand on George’s arm.

“Let’s go down­stairs. George, get your sis­ter a drink. Doreen, you can stay in the spare room for as long as you need to – on one con­di­tion.” “What?” Doreen asked. Mary nod­ded to­wards the bed­room, where Su­san was now try­ing to get Sarah back to sleep.

“You go and you apol­o­gise to your niece right away. You gave her quite a scare. You had her think­ing that some­one had taken her child, for heaven’s sake.”

George and Mary made their way down­stairs, hud­dled to­gether.

“Why did you in­vite her to stay?” George whis­pered. “You know she and I don’t get on. She can be a nasty piece of work, Mary, she’s –”

“She’s your sis­ter, George,” Mary told him firmly. “We all know she’s not the eas­i­est woman to get along with, but she’s fam­ily. And that comes be­fore every­thing else.” George sighed.

“I’ll ring Jack in the morn­ing,” he said. “I’ll find out what’s re­ally go­ing on.”

The next morn­ing a grey, win­try sky dawned above the Ship Inn. Sam was still asleep in the flat above the pub when he was wo­ken by a loud scrap­ing noise.

His heart quick­ened and he jumped out of bed.

He pulled his dress­ing gown around him and walked into the kitchen, where he picked up a cast-iron pan. Then he tried to work his fea­tures into a look that might ap­pear threat­en­ing in case there was a bur­glar.

He inched his way down the stairs. The scrap­ing noise be­came louder and more in­sis­tent, then it was fol­lowed by a bang­ing, then si­lence.

Sam stood, pan in hand, wait­ing be­side the pub’s front door. More si­lence.

He edged his way for­ward just as an eerie cry started up out­side the door.

He gulped and reached out his hand to turn the lock, de­ter­mined to find out what was go­ing on. More next week.

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