Read an Excerpt
By Mark Morris
Copyright © 2006
All right reserved.
He parked carefully and got out of the car. At once the wind seemed to slice
straight through to his core, making his flesh writhe, his teeth chatter
violently. He hurried through the gate and up the path to the front door. The
key rattled in the lock like an echo of his teeth. He turned and slammed the
door quickly after switching on the light, and then hugged himself, taking
one long breath after another. Finally he walked through to the kitchen and
made himself a pot of tea. The window was a black matt mirror, reflecting
his pale face, his wild hair. He yanked down the blind, wishing he could get
warm. He felt confused, depressed, angry, thought longingly of Gail, his flat
in London. He felt as though his flayed emotions were almost down to the
bone; he could feel their coldness, their hard sharp points.
He waited until the tea was almost stewed, then poured himself a mug and laced it generously with
honey. His stomach muscles cramped momentarily against the hot sweet liquid, then seemed to settle,
allowing the warmth to flood them like a panacea. He sat down in the kitchen and savoured the tea,
cupping his hands around the mug, enjoying the sensation of steam rising into his face like a mask of
soft warm kisses. As soon as he finished the tea, he poured himself another and stood up, intendingto
carry it through to the hall and ring Gail. He reached across the table for the teaspoon ...
... and heard the unmistakable creak of footsteps above his head.
He looked up, mouth slightly open, as if afraid the ceiling was about to fall in. Footsteps. An intruder. "Oh,
shit," he breathed. He couldn't believe he now had this to contend with. Hadn't he been through enough
for one night? He felt exhausted but looked around for a weapon. When he left the kitchen he was
holding a carving knife in his right hand, a rolling pin in his left.
He stood for a moment in the hall, listening to the sounds from upstairs. Obviously whoever was up
there saw no need to be cautious. This could mean one of two things: either they didn't know Jack was in
the house or they didn't care. Jack felt both angry and scared, though strangely detached. It suddenly
occurred to him to just get out of the house, get into his car and drive away. There was nothing much to
steal up there anyway. A few clothes, a few books, and that was it.
Yes, that was what he would do. He would call the police and then get the fuck out of there. He sneaked
along the hallway to the foot of the stairs, jamming his tongue between his teeth to stop them from
chattering. He reached the telephone table, put the rolling pin down on it, and picked up the receiver. The
dialling tone filled his head as he brought the receiver to his ear. But before he could punch in the first
number the dialling tone abruptly cut out and from the hissing silence that replaced it a male voice said,
He dropped the receiver and leaped back from it as if it had turned into a snake. That had been his
father's voice. It had spoken only one word, one syllable, but he was certain it had been his father's voice.
Panic suddenly overwhelmed him and he spun round, bouncing off the wall, and plunged towards the
front door. With his free hand he scrabbled at the handle and managed to yank the door open.
He ran out of the house, almost stumbling on the path. He came to the gate, pulled it open so violently
that he cracked his shin with it. Tears of pain sprang to his eyes. Muttering curses he limped into Daisy
Lane. He began to hobble towards his car, patting his pocket for keys. Then he stopped.
There was a dark humped shape beside the car. At first he thought it was a bush or the stump of a tree,
but then it began to unfurl, to straighten up, and he realised it was a man. The man had his back to Jack
but was already beginning, painstakingly slowly, to turn. As he did so, moonlight spilled across his face,
turning his skin into a ghastly blue-white clown's mask. Deep black wrinkles were etched into his
cheeks, his eyes were sunken pits of shadow. Jack began to back away as the figure raised its white
hands towards him in an almost supplicatory gesture. When his father began lurching in his direction,
face expressionless as a death-mask, Jack ran.
Excerpted from The Immaculate
by Mark Morris
Copyright © 2006 by Mark Morris.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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