Face of the Dead
This publication is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organisations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.
Copyright 2011 by Tasha D-Drake
Cover art by Natasha Duncan-Drake
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each reader. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favourite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Thank you to Soph and Rob for all their help and support.
A new start: new house; new job; new car; new friends; new life. It was that simple for Miles as he walked over the threshold of the farmhouse for the first time. The house was isolated enough that he didn't have to deal with people if he didn't want to, but close enough to the nearest town that there was nightlife to be had if he so chose. It was perfect.
Breathing in deeply, he took in the smell of freshly brewed coffee and he realised his new housekeeper was already there waiting for him. With the settlement he had from the newspapers he had more than enough money and so he had decided to hire some help. If there was one thing he was terrible at, it was housekeeping, Don had always said so. Leaving the box he was carrying next to the front door, he headed for the kitchen.
"Hello, Mrs Baines," he said with a smile as he walked into the stone paved room, "I didn't know you would be here today."
Mrs Baines was a short, somewhat rotund woman who could have been anything from forty to sixty and she turned immediately.
"Couldn't let you starve on your first day, Mr Jones," she said and he caught a waft of what smelt like freshly baked bread. "I know I was only supposed to air the place out for you to arrive, but we can't let you think we're not hospitable."
"Mrs Baines, you are a godsend."
He had tried to convince her to call him Miles when he had spoken to her numerous times on the phone and the once they had met face to face, but it seemed that about some things Mrs Baines was old fashioned and he had never been invited to call her anything but Mrs Baines. Coming from the business world where everyone called everyone else by their first names to show how close they were when in fact they barely knew one another, Miles found the formality quaint and just a little comforting.
"Well," Mrs Baines said, colouring somewhat, but smiling, "I wouldn't say that. Now that you're here I must be going. There's hotpot in the bottom oven and the bread will be ready in half an hour. The fridge is stocked with the essentials, so you should be fine. If you need any help with moving in, just call and I'll send over a couple of my boys to give you a hand."
"Thank you very much, Mrs Baines," he said and gave her his best smile, "I think I can manage. I don't have many things to unpack."
"Right you are," Mrs Baines replied with a nod, "I'll be seeing you Monday then. Have a good weekend."
"I will do my best," he said, "and I hope you do the same."
The woman bustled out of the kitchen towards the back door and Miles was left with mouth watering smells to make his stomach growl. The aga was something he had loved the sound of when reading the specs for the house, but he was bright enough to realise it was going to take some getting used to. One of the things he did have in the car was a microwave. Leaning down, he took the padded glove from where it was hanging on the aga rail and, with a bit of trial and error, managed to open the bottom oven. Inside was a lidded pot giving off the most wonderful scents. It made him think of home and comfort and wonderful things, which, given he had been a latch key kid where dinner most often came out of a packet, was kind of weird.
Closing the oven door again, he stood up. Waiting for the bread would try his patience, but he could busy himself with dragging some of his stuff into the house. The autumn weather was unseasonably warm so it wasn't exactly a chore to head back outside. However, it was as he stepped onto the drive where he had parked the four by four that an icy blast of wind hit him and made him shiver from head to foot. Shock brought him completely to the alert and for a moment he just stood there staring around himself. For no apparent reason his heart was thumping a mile a minute.
"Idiot," he muttered to himself and then went to grab his stuff.
Sitting back on the sofa, Miles kicked off his shoes and brought his glass of red wine to his lips. After enjoying the hearty lunch Mrs Baines had left for him he had spent the afternoon and early evening exploring his new house and arranging his meagre possessions around it. He had bought it fully furnished, the previous owners having died with no heirs and the solicitors having wanted to get rid of everything as quickly as possible. He'd had Mrs Baines remove the personal items of the previous owners, but he'd decided to keep everything else.
The TV in the corner of the room looked like it was out of the ark, but he could have a new one delivered in days. He also needed to arrange to have a digi-box installed, because there was no way he was living without the rugby.
Sipping on his wine, he considered attempting the feat that was connecting up the DVD player to the archaic TV, but decided it wasn't worth the effort. Tonight he would do something old fashioned like read a book or put together a jigsaw puzzle. That thought alone made him laugh out loud. If his ex-colleagues ever thought of him and a jigsaw puzzle they would probably die laughing.
There were of course other ways to amuse himself and he glanced down as his crotch. His cock gave a half-hearted twitch at the idea of having an early night and indulging in some self loving, but he couldn't be bothered to move. Maybe if there had been someone waiting for him upstairs, some pliant flesh to pound into, it would have been different, but that wasn't possible just yet.
He shifted in his seat and rearranged himself and glanced at the bookshelf. All the titles he could make out were either classics or romance and he made a face. They were so not what he liked to read; give him a hard edged thriller over a sappy romance any day. In the morning the romances could go in a box and be dumped at the nearest charity shop. He'd keep the classics, because it never hurt to pretend he read highbrow stuff when he had visitors.
As he let his eyes wander over the colourful spines on the shelf he rubbed his neck, sitting up from where he was leaning. Suddenly he didn't feel quite so comfortable. It was strange because the fire was still burning brightly in the fireplace and the room was warm, but it was as if a chill ran up his spine.
"Stop it," he told himself in a resolute tone.
He had always had a very active imagination; it was why he worked in marketing, and he was not about to let it get the better of him. The house was much older than what he was used to, being a housing estate city boy, and it had already surprised him several times with the way it creaked and groaned. He did not believe in anything he could not explain so there was no point in indulging his wilder fantasies even if it was nearly Halloween.
Refusing to give in to the disquiet that had settled on his shoulders, he stubbornly leant back again. He took a sip of his wine and that was when he heard the quiet tapping noise. Fear grabbed him without his conscious consent and without any rational reason he could see and he instinctively froze. The tapping came again, just three small sounds in a row, and this time he knew exactly where it was coming from.
The way the sound resonated it could only be one thing and he stared straight ahead, refusing to look behind him at the large window. The even, rhythmic tapping sounded again and he just knew it was someone tapping on the glass. He could not explain why that thought scared him rigid.
"You're a moron," he scolded himself and tried to push away the fear.
There were lots of things it could be, a branch or a piece of ivy in the wind, or even Mrs Baines come back to check on him. He was being ridiculous and he refused to be made a fool of by his own mind. It was harder than he cared to admit, but he made himself turn. Only as he faced the window did he realise he'd actually closed his eyes and he mentally cursed himself. He was simply being stupid.
There was nothing to be afraid of, nothing at all.
He had to tell himself that three times before he finally opened his eyes.
His heart skipped a beat and his voice caught in his throat as his whole body seized at what he saw. There, at the window, was an indistinct white face with black holes where the eyes and mouth should have been and next to it was an equally indistinct white hand tapping slowly on the glass.
Only the feeling of liquid seeping into his shirt made him rip his eyes away and he realised he had thrown his wine all over himself. It could not keep him distracted for long though and he looked back at the window in what had to be morbid curiosity. He stared and then he laughed, because there was nothing there. The window pain was misted with condensation in two patches, nothing more.
"Miles, you are a prize tit," he told himself and shook his head; so much for calm rationality.
His favourite blue shirt was now purple in several places and his heart was beating a mile a minute. He was going to have to get used to country living it seemed. Maybe what he needed was a party to make the place feel like home. It would be a way to get to know his new team at work as well and ingratiate himself with his colleagues. The papers had been forced to print large and detailed apologies, recanting everything they had said about him, but it never hurt to show everyone what a nice guy he was. He'd been in his new position a month and so far everyone had tactfully avoided the subject, which suited him, but he could back that up with niceties.
Putting his glass down, he grabbed the curtains and pulled them closed, then resolutely turned his back on the window. He placed a guard in front of the fire and headed for the kitchen. If he was going to save the shirt he needed to soak it; there was no way he was throwing away Ralph Lauren without trying to save it.
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Wittegen Press is a small independent publisher of eBooks based in the UK. We publish via Amazon and Smashwords for ease of access and some of our titles may be found on the iBooks store and Barnes and Nobel. To see our whole catalogue please visit our website.
Tasha was born and raised in rural Kent, England where she still lives with her husband Rob, just down the road from her twin sister and sometimes writing partner Sophie. Tasha has been writing since she was a pre-teen and chose to take it up as a full time career when her company downsized and made the whole software engineering department redundant. After setting up Wittegen Press with her sister as a brand for their books she has not looked back, publishing novels, novellas and short stories in a wide range of genres.
Before taking up writing professionally she was very active in the world of fanfiction and still believes it is a wonderful creative outlet, even though she doesn't have very much time to play anymore. She likes to maintain a lively presence online and welcomes new friends, readers and writers alike.
For more information about Tasha's books and where to find her at places like Twitter, please check out her profile at Wittegen Press, linked below.