An Extract from An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth

An Act of Silence

Having so loved An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth, my review of which you can read here, I’m thrilled to be starting launch celebrations for such a brilliant book. I have a super extract from An Act of Silence for you to read today.

An Act of Silence was published by Wildfire, an imprint of Headline, on 29th June 2017 and is available for purchase through the links here.

An Act of Silence

An Act of Silence

These are the facts I collect. My son Gabriel met a woman called Mariela in a bar. She went home with him. They next morning she was found in an allotment. Mariela is dead. Gabriel has been asked to report to Camden Police station in six hours for questioning.

Linda Moscow loves her son; it’s her biological instinct to keep him safe. But if she’s not sure of his innocence, how can she stand by him? Should she go against everything she believes in to protect him? She’s done it before, and the guilt nearly killed her.

Now, the past is catching up with them. As old secrets resurface, Lind is faced with another impossible choice. Only this time, it’s her life on the line…

An Extract from An Act Of Silence

Monday, 17 November 2014

Linda

Say yes.

One word, all he wants to hear.

Yes, I believe you. Yes, I will help you.

That look of his, brimful of need, stirs in me the biological instinct to protect, make safe, put things right.

I am hardwired to give him what he wants. That is love, I suppose.

But here’s a thought: what if I had resisted, left him to deal with his own mistakes, learn his lessons the hard way; would he be the same man, sitting here recounting this story?

The truth is I’ll never know.

We are where we are.

It is early, night is fading but dawn has yet to crack open the day. These are what I call the never hours. Suspended between dark and light when the world’s eyes are firmly shut and only the few night owls and early birds among us get to glimpse secrets unfolding. Five minutes ago I woke with a jolt; a noise, a movement, an overactive imagination tore through my sleep. I descended the stairs, fearful there was a secret waiting for me in the shadows, behind a door or hidden in a cupboard. I reached the kitchen, flicked on the light and his voice shattered the morning silence with a simple request.

‘Milk, one sugar, please.’

The fright found an echo in my heartbeat, galloped through my body. Another break-in, that was my first fear. My second? That it was me they wanted this time, not simply an old laptop. I swung around to match the voice to a face and found him.

I waited for relief to flood me. It didn’t arrive. Instead, my fear was replaced by dread.

It wasn’t him.

He could have been a stranger, this man. The familiar gloss of wealth and success and fame scoured away to reveal a bleaker version, one with a film of dirt thick on his skin, dark oily eyes that hadn’t found sleep in a long time. He was broken, that much was obvious. Something had happened and seeing him like this broke me too.

‘What have you done?’ I asked.

He caught me in a stare. The swell of tears in his eyes quickly rubbed away with the back of his hand.

‘Oh, Gabriel.’ I held my son as tightly as I did when he was a baby. ‘Tell me,’ I said. ‘There’s nothing that can’t be fixed.’

Now we sit at my kitchen table where he used to inhale one, two, three Weetabix as a boy each morning. And he tells me.

A woman.

She is called Mariela. Pretty name. About mid-twenties he thinks but apparently it’s hard to tell these days.

‘Was she your girlfriend?’

‘It was just sex.’

I don’t bite. Gabriel’s casual approach to intimacy has long been the cause of my disapproval. Now is not the time for lectures.

‘I see. And when was this encounter?’

‘Two days ago. Not last night, the night before.’

‘At your house?’

He nods, rolls his eyes at his own stupidity.

‘And then what?’

He covers his mouth with his hand, the words sting as they come out.

‘Then they found her.’

These are the facts I collect.

My son Gabriel met a woman called Mariela in a sushi bar two nights ago. She went home with him where they had sex. The next morning she was found in an allotment.

Mariela is dead.

The allotments back on to his house.

Gabriel has been asked to report to Camden police station in six hours for questioning.

‘You believe me, don’t you?’

‘I . . .’

I’m not fast enough and he can’t slow down now he has started. He races on with his monologue. My mind is stuck, terrified of following him because it knows where this ends.

He wants me to help him. Give him some time to get his head straight. Provide my car, that’s all really, not a lot to ask, and cash too. And if anyone asks if I have seen him, the answer is no. He’s not running away, just giving himself a bit of space.

There’s an intensity to his argument that is impossible to ignore. Wasn’t it always the way? My boy is nothing if not persuasive; one of his many qualities, but dangerous at times too. ‘Someone is trying to frame me,’ he says. I want this to be true but it doesn’t stack up, all I can think of is, Why, why, why would they do that?

‘You’re my mother. You know I couldn’t have done this. And you know how it looks, it’ll be all over the papers by the morning. They’ll be judge and jury and I’ll . . . I’ll be fucked. I’ve never begged you for anything before but I’m begging now.’

His desperation spins out a fierce, kinetic energy that drags me along. He is falling apart and it is agony to witness. I need to hold him together, I have to do something to help. He is right about the press, they’ll crucify him. He won’t be treated fairly. He is well known, a famous face, all the better to sell newspapers. They’ll rake over every detail of his life, cook up a dark side. And my name will be dragged in to damn him further: disgraced politician’s son. He’s in for a public mauling, no doubt, and having been there myself I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, least of all my son.

I have to do the right thing, but it wears many guises and at the moment I can’t tell it apart from wrong.

Time. He’s not the only one who needs time to think. The world has slipped out of sync, sent me freefalling into a terrifying darkness. I close my eyes, praying that when I open them again, order will be restored.

‘Mum, please.’

His words go to my core, to who he is, who I am. He is a baby in my arms again, the midwife handing him to me for the first time, a tiny wet being writhing against my skin. And me, his mother, drunk on fear of the past, hope for the future.

‘Gabriel,’ I said. My very first word to him, to his father. ‘We’ll call him Gabriel, like the angel.’

Yes, I’ll help you. I’m about to give him what he wants

because what else can I do, he’s all I have. He needs me and above everything else I know this: my son is not capable of murder.

But.

I open my eyes and I see it, a red line gouged out of his neck like a warning.

‘What is that?’

He runs his index finger along its trail. Surprised. Hesitates long enough for me to catch the lie that flashes on his face.

‘Oh that. I did it on a branch.’

It is only a scratch but it rips through my belief. It is doubt and fear and dread.

‘Don’t do that,’ he says.

‘What?’

No answer. He’s stopped making sense now.

‘If you haven’t done anything wrong,’ I say, ‘you have nothing to worry about.’

‘If ?’

‘What?’

‘You said, if I haven’t done anything wrong.’

‘Did I?’

‘You think I could have done this?’

About Colette McBeth

Colette-McBeth

Colette McBeth is the critically acclaimed author of psychological thrillers Precious Thing and The Life I Left Behind.

Colette was a BBC TV News television correspondent for ten years, during which time she covered many major crime stories and worked out of Westminster as a political reporter.

She lives on the South Coast with her husband and three children.

You can follow Colette on Twitter, find her on Facebook and visit her website.

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