Coordinator’s Office, Beechway High Secure Unit, Bristol
IT’S ABOUT ELEVEN o’clock when AJ LeGrande, the senior nursing coordinator at Beechway psychiatric unit, wakes from a nightmare with a jolt. His heart is thudding, and it takes a long time for him to reorientate himself and realize he is fully dressed and sitting in his office chair, feet on his desk. The reports he was reading are scattered on the floor.
He rubs his chest uneasily. Blinks and sits up. The room is dark, just a small amount of light coming from under the door. Dancing on his retina is the blurred after-image of a little figure crouched over him. Straddling his chest, its smooth face close to his. Its foreshortened arms resting delicately on his collarbone. He runs his tongue around his mouth, glancing around the office. He imagines the thing escaping through the closed door. Sliding under and out into the corridor, where it will run further and further into the hospital.
His throat is tight. He’s not used to wearing a collar – he’s only been coordinator for a month and he can’t get used to the suit. And the clip-on ties he has to wear for his own safety? He can’t seem to get the knack of them. They never hang right or feel right. He drops his feet to the floor and unclips the tie. The tightness in his lungs eases slightly. He gets up and goes to the door. Fingers on the handle, he hesitates. If he opens the door he’s going to see a little gowned figure pitter-pattering away down the empty corridor.
Three deep breaths. He opens the door. Looks one way up the corridor, and the other. There is nothing. Just the usual things he’s got used to over the years: the green tiled floor, the fire muster point with its diagram of the unit, the padded handrails. No wispy fleeing hem of a gown rounding the corner and disappearing out of sight.
He leans against the doorpost for a moment, trying to clear his head. Dwarfs on his chest? Little figures in nightgowns? The whisper of small feet? And two words he doesn’t want to think: The. Maude.
Extract taken from the 3rd chapter of Mo Hayder’s new publication – Poppet – Buy it now!
Mo Hayder has written some of the most terrifying crime thrillers you will ever read. Her first novel, Birdman, was hailed as a ‘first-class shocker’ by the Guardian and her followup, The Treatment was voted by The Times as one of ‘the top ten most scary thrillers ever written’. In 2012 Gone won the prestigious Edgars Best Novel award. You may also like to read my reviews for Hanging Hill & Gone.
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