The Devil’s Work
by Mark Edwards
Thomas & Mercer, PB, £8.99
Out on 13th September
No 1 bestselling author Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which terrifying things happen to ordinary people. His first solo novel The Magpies reached the No 1 spot on Amazon UK, as did his third novel Because she Loves Me.
The Devil’s Work is his new dark psychological thriller. Whet your appetite with this exclusive extract, then click through for our review of this gripping page-turner …
Sophie held Daisy’s hand as they approached the Jackdaw Books building, with her husband, Guy, on the other side of their daughter.
Daisy tugged at her hand. ‘Mummy, they’re scary.’ She pointed up towards the gargoyles that stared across the street from the terra-cotta brickwork.
‘It’s not scary inside, poppet. Come on.’
There were seven or eight other girls waiting in reception with their parents, a mix of mums and dads.
At four, Daisy was the youngest by a long way, which made Sophie wonder if she’d made a mistake agreeing to this bring your daughter to work day. Guy was planning to head to a nearby coffee shop to work after having a quick look at Sophie’s office. Perhaps she should tell him to take Daisy out for the day instead.
But she didn’t get a chance, as Natalie arrived with a scowling fourteen-year-old in tow. Sophie was amused to see that the head of HR’s daughter, Roxanne, was an emo. She flinched like she’d been stung by nettles whenever Natalie touched her.
‘We’re going to learn all about what your mums and dads do every day, how they earn the money that buys you all your lovely things,’ Natalie said. ‘Does everyone know what we do here at Jackdaw? We make books – lovely books for children and teenagers.’
They went up in the lift. Daisy needed a wee, and when Sophie returned from the toilets, Guy was nowhere in sight. She walked over to her desk, holding Daisy’s hand. Tracey made a fuss of Daisy, telling her how pretty she was.
‘I’ve lost my husband,’ Sophie said with a smile. ‘Probably wandered off in search of food.’
‘I think he’s in the kitchen,’ Tracey said. ‘I’ll watch Daisy for you if you want to go and find him.’
Ten minutes later, after seeing Guy out, Sophie headed across the office to where Cassie and Tracey stood together looking at something on Cassie’s screen.
Tracey looked over at her chair. ‘She was sitting right there a minute ago, playing a game on my computer.’
Sophie jumped up onto her desk, surprising herself and everyone around her. ‘Daisy?’ she called, her voice rising an octave, the name of the person she cared about most quivering in her throat. ‘Daisy?’
Her heart immediately began to thump. Daisy was nowhere to be seen.
Her daughter was gone.
“You need to calm down”
‘Daisy?’ Sophie shouted again, louder this time. She jumped down from the desk. She needed to stay rational. Daisy had probably wandered off to look for her mum and dad. Sophie sprinted off across the office and checked the kitchen.
Daisy wasn’t there. Sophie gulped down air. Don’t panic. Tracey explained that Daisy had been sitting at her desk, playing something on the CBeebies website. Sophie experienced a terrifying vision of a future in which every time she heard the Postman Pat theme tune she would be plunged into despair, wondering why she had let her only child, out of her sight. She would be one of those hollow-eyed mothers you see on the news, appealing to a stranger, asking them to return her child.
She hardly ever let Daisy out of her sight when she was with her. And this was why. She had been right to be scared. If Guy was here she would grab him and say, See? See?
‘It can’t have been long,’ Tracey said in a defensive tone. ‘We were looking at the sales figures on Cassie’s PC.’
Natalie appeared. ‘Sophie, I need you to bring . . . What’s going on?’
Sophie battled to keep her voice calm. ‘My daughter, Daisy. She’s disappeared.’
‘What?’ She glanced around, as if they were all useless and simply weren’t looking hard enough. ‘Well, she can’t have gone far, but I’ll call reception, make sure they don’t let any little girls wander out on to the street.’
“What’s going on here?”
Sophie cursed herself. She shouldn’t have gone off to find Guy. She was the one who had been absent. No, worse than that – neglectful.
But there would be plenty of time to beat herself up afterwards. Right now, she needed to find Daisy. If only she could think straight. All she could do was turn in circles, dash from point to point, peering hopelessly beneath desks. While she was searching, her manager, Simon, arrived.
‘What’s going on here?’ he said.
Sophie wanted to scream, but Natalie stepped in and told Simon what had happened.
‘Where could she have gone?’ Simon asked. ‘Let’s think. One, she could be hiding somewhere in this room—’
‘The windows!’ Sophie blurted. ‘Are any of the windows open?’
Everybody looked. No one was allowed to open the windows when the air conditioning was on. Emails were always being sent around about this issue. But a few rebels who sat on the edges of the office had been known to open them, complaining the room was too stuffy.
The window closest to the kitchen was open now. Sophie ran across the office.
Simon and Natalie followed Sophie and as she reached the window, peering through the crack at the ground far below, Simon caught hold of her.
‘Sophie. No child could fit through that gap. You need to calm down.’
“Call the police”
She turned to him. She mustn’t cry. Not yet. Afterwards, when she was safely holding Daisy in her arms, she could let the tears flow. But first . . .
‘What are you doing?’ Natalie asked.
‘Calling the police.’
Natalie gently took hold of Sophie’s wrist and lowered her arm. ‘There’s no need to do that yet. Come on, she’s got to be in the building.’
‘By the time they get here, we’ll have found her. Tell you what, if we don’t find her in the next ten minutes, I’ll call them myself.’
Natalie led her back across to her desk. Everybody was staring at her. Why were they sitting still? Why wasn’t everyone looking for Daisy?
‘Right,’ Simon began as they reached her bank of desks, putting his phone away. ‘Two of the reception staff are going from floor to floor looking for her. I’ve asked Facilities to send around an email asking everyone to search their immediate surroundings.’
‘An email?’ Sophie couldn’t believe it. ‘Some people take forever to read their emails.’
‘And an instant message which will pop up on every screen. Sophie, you stay here with Tracey so we know exactly where you are and can reunite you with Daisy as soon as we find her. Cassie, you come with me.’
“I need to do something”
Simon and Cassie headed towards the stairwell.
‘Are you OK?’ Tracey asked, peering at her.
‘It’s my heart. I think it’s going to burst out of my chest.’
‘I remember when my youngest, Jamie, got lost in the supermarket once. I went mental, was convinced some pervert had abducted him. There are so many paedophiles out there, just waiting for their opportunity to . . . I need to shut up, don’t I?’
Sophie could hear the tremor in her own voice as she spoke. ‘I’m not so worried about her being snatched by a paedophile, here at work. I’m terrified she’s had an accident, is lying hurt somewhere. Or she managed to sneak out the building.’
Sophie checked the time on her phone. ‘How long have they been?’
‘Just five minutes.’
Sophie got up. ‘I can’t stand this. I can’t wait here. I need to do something.’
‘But Simon said—’
‘I’m going to look for her.’ She ran to the doors before Tracey could stop her. She left the office and looked up and down the stairwell. Given a choice, Daisy always gravitated up stairs, ever since she was a toddler and learned to climb them on her hands and knees. Sophie ran up the stairs.
Panic and despair
The door to the computer server room was locked. Was it always locked? Could Daisy have gone in there, hidden and got locked in? She knew these rooms were kept cold, and she pictured her little girl trapped inside, shivering. Turning blue.
It was Dave from Facilities. He looked almost as anxious as she felt.
‘I’ve searched through the storerooms,’ he said, trying to keep his voice light.
‘I need to get someone to open this door. I think she’s in here.’
‘I’ve already checked it, Sophie. She’s not in there.’
‘Then where the hell is she?’ Her voice cracked. Dave didn’t move and Sophie found herself suspecting him for a moment. He had sweat patches under his arms and he was breathing deeply, the classic image of a predatory paedophile. What if he was lying about the server room?
‘Why are you looking at me like that?’ he asked.
‘I want to see inside the server room.’
‘What? I already told you, she’s not in there.’
‘I want to see for myself!’ she yelled, unable to keep her voice down.
He was clearly shocked, muttering, ‘Fine, see for yourself.’ He unlocked the door and held it open so she could go in. It was freezing inside the little room and, apart from banks of computer equipment, empty.
‘See? I told you.’
She brushed past and headed back to the stairwell. She was pretty sure she heard Dave call her a rude name, but she really didn’t care right now.
She looked up towards the fifth floor where Franklin and the other powers that be were based. She reached a door at the top of the stairs and tried it.
Locked. For a moment, all her energy deserted her. She leaned against the door, fending off the panic and despair that were trying to consume her.
There was a keypad above the door handle. She stared at it for a moment, wondering what the combination might be. Six six six? Then she heard Simon’s voice, growing louder as he ran up the stairs calling her name. When he reached her, he was panting.
‘We’ve found her!’
“I don’t want you to die, Mummy”
‘Natalie’s got her in her office. Her daughter found her.’ He led a dazed Sophie down to Natalie’s office.
And there she was. Daisy. Sitting on the sofa, wide-eyed and clutching a book to her chest. Natalie’s daughter, Roxanne, sat beside her.
She scooped Daisy up and wrapped her arms around her, squeezed her, buried her face in her soft hair.
‘Mummy. You’re hurting me.’
‘Sorry. Sorry, sweetheart.’ She loosened her grip. ‘I’m just so happy to see you. I was so worried.’
‘Why are you crying?’
Sophie put Daisy down and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
‘Where was she?’ Sophie asked, sitting on the sofa and lifting Daisy onto her lap. She glanced down at the book Daisy had been holding. A picture book with an elephant on the cover.
Roxanne answered her question. ‘In the library.’
‘In the basement?’ Sophie stared at her. The basement library was out of bounds because of all the rare editions kept there.
Roxanne shrugged. ‘Yeah. I got bored listening to Mum bang on about all the important work she does—’
The girl ignored her mother and carried on. ‘So I went for a wander.’
‘How did you get in the library, sweetheart?’ Sophie asked quietly. The library was kept under lock and key so ordinary members of staff couldn’t access it.
Daisy looked up at her with those big eyes. ‘The man took me.’
The breath got stuck in Sophie’s throat.
Daisy began to cry, reacting to the alarm in Sophie’s voice. ‘I don’t know,’ she wailed. She was inconsolable, hyperventilating and clinging to Sophie.
‘The man said—he said he was your friend, Mummy.’
She looked at Sophie with wide eyes. ‘I don’t like it here, Mummy. I want you to come home and live with me and Daddy all the time. I don’t like you doing work.’
‘I have to work, Daisy. Mummy has to earn money to pay for all our nice things.’
Daisy burst into tears again. ‘But Mummy. I don’t want you to die.’
What happens next … you can find out by treating yourself to a copy of The Devil’s Work.
More book extracts