Authors: Amy Cross
Copyright 2015 Amy Cross
All Rights Reserved
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, events, entities and places are either products of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual people, businesses, entities or events is entirely coincidental.
Published by Dark Season Books
First published: June 2015
“I want to go deeper. I want to go to the next level.”
With a killer still on the loose, Jane Freeman knows there could be another victim at any moment. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have much help: her boss is losing her mind, her husband is snooping through her phone, and her subconscious mind has started to talk to her in the form of the dead girl.
Meanwhile, Ben Freeman has decided that the time has come to face his father and make him a surprising offer. First, though, they have to try to get past the events of a day fifteen years ago when Ben learned what his father really thought of him. Turning to his sister for help, he has no idea that she has started her own descent into a whole new kind of personal hell.
And beneath them all, buried under the town, the denizens of The Border continue their deadly party.
The Border is a horror thriller serial in eight parts, about a family’s search for the truth, and about a town gripped by the possibility that a killer lurks among them. This is the third part. Ends on a cliffhanger.
Fifteen years ago
“Lindsay Horne was strangled,” Harry muttered, reading out loud from the newspaper. “Although from the description here, it sounds more like she was garroted.”
“What does garroted mean, Dad?” Jack asked from the other end of the breakfast table. He’d been in the process of cutting the top off his boiled egg, but he’d paused for the latest news.
“Don’t they teach you anything at school these days?” Harry asked, not looking up from the paper.
“Well,” Harry continued with a sigh, “if you garrote someone, it means you -”
“Shush, you two,” Audrey hissed, setting a jug of meal between them. “Can’t you find something more palatable to discuss while we’re eating? I mean literally, that poor murdered girl is the only topic of conversation you can think of?”
“It’s the talk of the town,” Harry drawled, turning to the next page. “It’s interesting.”
“But what does garroted mean?” Jack asked again. “Is it different to strangled?”
Harry glanced at him. “Garroted means -”
“Don’t,” Audrey whispered, tapping his shoulder as she headed back to the kitchen.
“I’m just telling the boy!”
Sighing, Harry waited until she was out of the room before leaning toward Jack. “You wanna know something else?” he asked, keeping his voice low. “When the girl was found, she was naked.”
“Seriously?” Jack replied, his eyes widening with shock.
“Naked in a dewy field. You know how early in the morning, there’s dew on the grass? You’ve seen that, right?”
“Well, there was dew on her flesh too. All over. Imagine that for a moment. All those little beads of water, all over her. And if the wind blew gentle on her, the beads would’ve wobbled slightly. Maybe even some of ‘em ran down onto the cold, wet grass below.” He paused. “It’s something to think about, isn’t it?”
Jack stared, stunned by the information.
“Pretty little thing, wasn’t she?” Harry continued, leaning back. “I remember seeing Lindsay around from time to time. Hell, I remember when she was born, that’s how bloody old I’m getting. You could always tell she was gonna be a knockout, and I’m not saying that in a weird way, just a matter-of-fact way. It’s not even a sexual thing, it’s more of an aesthetic consideration, and I’ve always prided myself on being an aesthete. I actually remember thinking one time, not that long ago, that Lindsay Horne could end up in Playboy or Hustler. Instead, it’ll be all those crime magazines.”
Jack swallowed hard. “But Dad -”
“Quiet,” Harry hissed, as Audrey returned with a basket of bread. He put a finger to his lips, as if to seal the conspiratorial pact between them.
“I know you two were whispering about something,” Audrey said sternly as she set the basket down. “I don’t think it’s right to be talking about things like that, certainly not at the breakfast table. Jack, when your brother and sister come through, I don’t want to hear a word of it, do you understand?”
“It was Dad who was talking,” Jack replied.
“Snitch,” Harry muttered.
“Anyway,” Jack continued, “it’ll be all over the internet by now.”
“And that’s another thing I don’t like,” Audrey continued. “You kids spend far too much time on that internet.” She turned to Harry. “I think we should get it taken out. Disconnect the computer in the office.”
“Can’t,” Harry replied. “There’s a lot of useful stuff on the internet. I like it.”
“I know you do.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Just that I’ve seen your browser history, darling.”
“And what’s a browser history when it’s at home?”
“It’s a list of all the web-pages you’ve visited.”
“Where’d you get that from?” he asked, clearly horrified by the idea.
“I have my ways. I just think we should get rid of the internet or at least ration it, for
our sakes. I don’t like the way anything can come down the phone lines and end up on that screen. It’s not right. We should get rid of it because we get used to it and think it’s normal.”
“It’s the future, Audrey,” Harry replied “Don’t go fighting the future, no-one ever wins if they try to fight progress. You’ll start sounding like your mother, and then where will we all be?” He muttered something else under his breath, but he kept it low so that no-one could hear.
“Such a charming man,” she replied, rolling her eyes as she headed back to the kitchen. “You really know how to talk to a woman, Harry. It’s a gift.”
“I just say it like I see it,” he said with a smile.
“Is she annoyed with you?” Jack asked after a moment.
“Nah,” he muttered, turning to the next page in the newspaper. “Anyway, a woman being annoyed with a man is different to any other kind of annoyance. Don’t worry, I know how to handle a woman, it’s one of those things you learn as you get older. It’s part of being a man.”
“But what’s garroting?” he asked. “Come on, you still haven’t told me!”
“It’s like strangulation,” Ben said suddenly, entering the room and heading to one of the empty chairs, “but way,
more brutal. It’s basically a ligature made out of your favored material, such as a rope or perhaps a section of chain, although it can be made out of more or less anything. You can improvise a garrote fairly easily. It’s particularly popular among the military, and many people prefer to use some kind of stick in the ligature itself, to make the process quicker and easier.” Grabbing a bowl, he took a seat. “Like I said, it’s brutal, but it’s also a good method to use if you happen to be a squeamish murderer. If you garrote someone, you just wrap the device around the neck and turn, you can even close your eyes while you’re doing it. For someone who’s still a little unsure about being a killer, it might be better that way.” He paused, fully aware that his father and brother were staring at him with expressions of shock. Finally, he began to smile. “Well, you
ask. Good morning, fellas.”
Harry frowned. “What in holy hell have you done to your hair?”
“My hair?” Ben looked up, pretending for a moment not to know what he meant, before chuckling to himself. “Oh yeah, I dyed it. What do you think?”
“It’s blonde,” Harry continued. “What is that,
“Brown’s so boring,” Ben continued, tipping some cereal into his bowl. Still smiling, he glanced at Jack. “Don’t you ever feel like changing your appearance up? It’s boring to look the same all the time, there’s nothing wrong with making a change. In which case you like looking boring, ‘cause then you’ve got the whole thing down pat, you really do.”
“You look stupid,” Jack replied.
“Cool,” Ben told him. “The word you’re looking for is cool. And thank you, you’re right, I do.”
“Wash it out,” Harry said sternly.
“Get in that bathroom,” he continued, pointing toward the door, “and wash it out.”
“It’s dyed, father. I used proper dye from the store, I did it in the bathroom last night after you’d all gone to bed.”
“Jesus Christ,” Harry muttered, “what the hell is wrong with you?”
“I wanted to look cool. You know, like Lou Reed from that album cover.”
“Lou Reed stinks,” Jack replied.
“Whatever,” Ben continued, “the point is, I felt like doing something different with my hair, and after all it is
hair. I figure that by the age of fifteen, my hair has been emancipated from the shackles of parental control. Besides, it’s not like I came into your rooms and did it to you. And no, Dad, before you start worrying, dying my hair blonde doesn’t make me a homosexual or a pervert. I
that’s what you were thinking.”
“Don’t tell me what I’m thinking,” Harry said darkly.
“I might get an earring, through,” Ben added, unable to stifle a broad grin.
“No son of mine is getting an earring,” Harry replied.
“Is that an order or a prediction?” Ben asked.
“Oh my God!” Beth shouted excitedly as soon as she reached the doorway. “Mum, have you seen what Ben’s done to his hair?”
“At least someone likes it,” Ben chuckled, keeping his eyes fixed on his father. “Can’t you be happy for me, Dad? I’m breaking out of my humdrum existence and trying to experiment. Plus, I think the girls are gonna love it at school. See? Again, not homosexual, so you don’t have to worry about your pals at the cafe starting to gossip. Not unless they’re a bunch of goddamn cretins, in which case I guess they might get all uppity and -”
“Cut out the bad language at the breakfast table,” Harry replied, interrupting him.
“Cretins? Homosexuals? What’s the bad language? You guys were talking about garroting people when I walked in, for fuck’s sake.”
“Language!” Harry shouted, slamming a hand against the table.
“Oh Jesus,” Audrey said, stopping in the doorway. “Ben… Really?”
“Really,” he replied with a smile.
“Well…” She guided Beth over to one of the empty chairs. “You did a good job, actually. Looks like you covered the roots well enough, that’s not easy when you’re doing it yourself. Maybe I’ll get you to help next time I dye mine.”
Harry muttered something under his breath.
“You look weird,” Beth told Ben.
“But do you like it?” he asked.
Smiling, she nodded.
“It’s wrong,” Harry said darkly, turning to another page in the newspaper. “I don’t want to discuss it anymore and I don’t want to
“So when you garrote someone,” Jack continued, “is it quick?”
“What does garrote mean?” Beth asked. “Is it rude?”
“Oh God,” Audrey muttered, “what is this family becoming?”
“Garrote,” Ben began, “means -”
“Get out!” Harry shouted suddenly.
“What? I was just -”
“Get out of my dining room!” Standing up, Harry pointed to the door. “You can’t talk to your sister about things like that! For God’s sake, have you got no sense or decency? Do you think it’s funny to come down here with your blonde hair and start discussing methods of execution over the breakfast table?”
“Harry, sit down,” Audrey hissed. “Let’s just try to have a few minutes together as a family, okay?”
“That’s what I’m trying to achieve,” Harry said darkly, keeping his eyes fixed on Ben, “but certain people clearly find it funny to cause disruption.” He paused, waiting for Ben to leave. “Go to your room,” he added finally. “Go on, don’t make me say it again or I might just drag you up there by the collar.”
“My room?” Ben replied, clearly amused by the situation. “Like… What, is this the 1950s suddenly? Am I twelve?”
“You heard me,” Harry continued. “I don’t like repeating myself, so don’t act even dumber than you are. You’ve forfeited the right to sit with your family at the breakfast table, so I suggest you go to your room and think about what you’ve done. And start planning how you’re going to get your hair back to its proper color, because there’s no way any son of mine is going to walk around this town looking like…” He paused, struggling to find the right word. “Like…”
“Like Lou Reed?” Ben suggested helpfully.
Sighing, Ben got to his feet and made his way slowly around the table.
“And wipe that grin off your face,” Harry told him. “My God, boy, do you go through life finding everything funny?”
“Nah,” Ben replied, heading to the door. “Mainly just when you’re around, pontificating and trying to act tough.”
“What did you say?” Harry roared, turning to watch him heading out of the room. “Come back here and say that to my face, you little coward!”
“Harry!” Audrey hissed. “Enough!”
“He has to learn!”
“Oh, bull,” she replied, getting to her feet and heading to the kitchen. “I’ll be late for work anyway. Thank you for making this such a lovely breakfast, I’m so glad we made the effort to get all the family together this morning. Well done, Harry. Well done.”
“Me?” He turned and watched as she hurried to the kitchen. “What did
“What does garrote mean?” Beth asked.
“A girl got murdered on the edge of town,” Jack told her.
Her eyes widened. “No way!”
“It’s all right here in the paper,” Harry added.
“She was found naked,” Jack continued, “covered in dew.”
“No way!” Beth said again. “What’s dew?”
“She’d been interfered with, too,” Harry told them. “You know, down there. It’s sick, I can’t say more in front of you, you’re just kids. I just hope they catch the son of a bitch.”
“They always catch murderers, don’t they?” Beth asked.
“Dream on, kid.”