It had been a wonderful day, Angela thought as she looked through her wedding album. She’d lost count of the number of times she’d leafed through its pages since collecting it just a couple of hours before. She had studied every outfit and smiling face that had been part of her and Richard’s special day.
She stopped on a group photo. It showed Richard and her in the centre of their guests. It was her favourite, everybody they loved in the same shot.
Something caught her eye, something she hadn’t spotted on any of the previous looks through. Over her mother’s left shoulder stood a dark shadow-like figure. It was the wrong size and far too dark to be her own shadow. No light penetrated the shape and it partially blocked Richard’s friend, Carole, who had been stood just beside Angela’s mum.
She blamed herself, she’d insisted on traditional photography rather than digital – she just felt it produced a warmer, more honest finish. Clearly there had been a problem in development or perhaps a fault on the film. Why hadn’t she spotted this before? She gently rubbed at the image but the dark shape was definitely part of the image rather than something that had spilled on the photo. It must have been there before, she thought, and turned the page. She now inspected each photo more closely than on previous viewings.
Angela was interrupted by a knock at the front door. Two female police officers greeted her, their solemn expressions told Angela something bad had happened.
‘Is it Richard?’ she asked.
‘Mrs Giles, I’m PC Franklyn and this is PC Brown, can we come in?’ one of the officers said.
Angela still hadn’t got used to her married name. Usually she felt a glow of excitement when somebody used it. Today it filled here with dread as it seemed to confirm that they were there looking for Richard Giles’ next of kin. She gestured the officers into the house.
In the living room PC Franklyn spoke, ‘Mrs Giles, I regret to have to tell you that a woman matching your mother’s description was hit by a car this morning.” There was a pause, then, “I’m sorry, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.’
Angela went numb, her emotions confused. Her mother? She’d been preparing for news of Richard’s death – not this. There was an element of relief and then an overwhelming feeling of guilt and grief. She dropped to her knees and began to sob. PC Brown bent to comfort her. There was no hug just a hand to the shoulder – the reassuring touch of human contact.
‘We’re going to need someone to come and formally identify the body,’ the crouching officer said once Angela’s sobs subsided. ‘Is that something you feel you can do?’
Angela nodded. ‘What happened?’ she asked in a voice broken with disbelief.
PC Brown looked at her colleague. A nod of approval came from above.
‘We have witness statements from the driver of the car and neighbours who saw the incident. They say she ran from her house yelling and then threw herself under a car. There was no way the driver could have reacted in time. It looks like suicide.’
‘Suicide?’ Angela questioned bemused. ‘No way, she was a happy woman. No… hang on a minute. Did you just say she ran?’
‘Yes, she ran out in front of the vehicle.’
Angela was filled with hope – this had to be a mistake. She moved over to the open wedding album on the coffee table and pointed at the group photo.
‘Well, then it’s not my mother,’ Angela said, a glimmer of optimism in her voice.
Both officers leaned over to look at the woman Angela was pointing at. She was standing proudly next to her daughter both hands clutching a walking frame. They looked at each other, both clearly confused.
‘Mrs Giles, I’m afraid we’re only looking for a formal identification from you. We’re almost certain the deceased is your mother, the neighbours have confirmed as much. The lady ran from your mother’s home, the door was left open and there is no one else left inside,’ said PC Franklyn.
‘But look! She’s used that frame for the last four years,’ Angela exclaimed.
As she stared at the photo her expression changed, the hope gone, replaced by confusion. The dark shape behind her mother had disappeared. She flipped to the next page, and then the next, a photo of Richard and herself alone under a tree. Except now they weren’t alone.
‘Mrs Giles, are you OK?’ Officer Franklyn asked.
Angela appeared not to hear. She let out a primal scream and with superhuman strength pushed past both officers, knocking them to the floor. The officers scrambled to their feet and gave chase as Angela raced out of the room and up the two flights of stairs in her marital townhouse. She appeared to fly as she took the stairs. The officers arrived in an empty bedroom, its window smashed. Angela’s lifeless body laid two stories below.
‘What the fuck was that?’ PC Brown asked.
PC Franklyn looked at her colleague, fear etched deep across her face.
‘Sue, Sue, snap out of it, we have to call this in,’ PC Brown shouted.
Franklyn pointed over Brown’s shoulder. She turned tentatively to see both of them reflected in a floor standing mirror.
‘What is it?’ Brown asked.
‘You don’t see it?’ Franklyn finally spoke.
A dark shadow enveloped Brown’s reflection.
Bio: Aidan Thorn is from Southampton, England, home of the Spitfire and Matthew Le Tissier but sadly more famous for Craig David and being the place the Titanic left from before sinking. Aidan would like to put Southampton on the map for something more than bad R ‘n’ B and sinking ships. His short fiction has appeared in the Byker Books Radgepacket series and the Near to the Knuckle Anthology: Gloves off, as well as online at Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers, Thrills, Kills and Chaos, Shotgun Honey and Near to the Knuckle. In Spring 2014 his story ‘Taking out the Trash’ will appear in Exiles: An Outsiders Anthology from BlackWitch Press. He released his first short story collection, Criminal Thoughts in December 2013.