Here’s a cut scene introducing Mercy, a side character in The Crows (coming January 2020). You can pre-order/buy the novel via Amazon and Smashwords! The printed edition will be available from January via Amazon with five original illustrations (the ebook versions have three).
Mercy, who trained as a hairdresser after school, is now a supervisor at SupaPrice, the local supermarket on the high street. She prefers the term ‘human-passing’, since, unlike humans, she and those like her are born with a birthmark indicating the number of years they have to live. Mercy’s number is in the 90s, and until she reaches this number, she can’t stay dead.
Her Pinterest mood board is here: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/cmrosens/pagham-on-sea-mood-board/mercy-hillsworth-supermarket-supervisor-resurrecti/
“Me toe’s acting up,” Brian Folger complained to his younger customer, leaning against the vegetable crates outside his shop. A large, balding man with an arresting voice that made escaping a conversation difficult once he’d decided to start one, the greengrocer was a familiar sight on the high street, bearing a strong resemblance to a flour-sack in overalls. “That means trouble. June’ll tell you, me toe is never wrong about trouble. Like an antenna for trouble, is me big toe.”
Mercy Hillsworth was already late for work, and, for once, didn’t want to chat. The anniversary of her grandmother’s death was always a difficult day. Mercy’s dad always went to the grave at ten o’clock, taking a half-day at work if he needed to, a well-worn annual routine he had undertaken since the tender age of eight. Every year since passing her driving test Mercy stood awkwardly by with a bunch of lilies in one hand and her car keys in the other, ever the family’s get-away driver.
This morning, Mr Hillsworth had been predisposed to reminisce, work pressures getting to him along with a myriad of other small niggling concerns, all of it finding their outlet in a diatribe against the cold-hearted woman long in her grave.
Mercy wasn’t in the mood to shoulder Brian’s podiatric concerns on top of that.
“Sorry about that, Bri.” She clutched the bag of cherries June had weighed out for her, her break-time treat, concentrating on the high street traffic.
“Started as soon as that woman bought the Fairwood place, you know, The Crows,” Brian went on, talking more to himself than to her. “Been playing up for months now. Off and on, you know, but now more on than off. Did you hear, Evie Rogers’ lad said they found a skeleton in the well?”
Mercy had already stepped off the kerb, but this piece of gossip startled her. She had known The Crows long before the army of contractors had worked their magic.
It loomed in her mind’s eye, the roof caved in, the whole of the west wing crumbled away into the weeds. She remembered the remains of the proud front wall with its single empty window frame at the very top, staring down like a defiant Cyclops at its own decay. There had always been something odd about that house. It had always seemed as if it was waiting for something – or someone, perhaps.
She had never liked it.
Mercy remembered breaking into the house through the French windows and taking a small token to prove her bravery like every other local child. In her case, it had been a paperweight. She remembered the creak of decaying wood, the smell of damp and smoke damage from where other kids had set fires which never caught. The paperweight was in what had once been a study, dust-sheets draped over what little furniture was still there, and it had been lying in a corner on the floor. She’d been drawn to the pretty coloured spiral at its heart, fair compensation for being drawn further in than she’d meant to go. Some of her friends had said it called you like a mermaid, and the sadder you were the stronger you could hear it. Mercy couldn’t hear anything except the wind soughing through the holes and cracks, and that sounded more like sobbing than singing. Perhaps she had never been sad enough to hear the song.
Only once had she thought she knew what they meant: driving up Redditch Lane on the afternoon Jazz told her, after five dates, he didn’t think they could see each other anymore, it was all too weird for him, what she was, what she could do. And it was only five dates and she hadn’t known him long, and he was older than her and not her type and he spent all his time fiddling around inside dead people, but she had her sister on speaker in the car and could barely keep herself from crying. And there it was – The Crows. Broken and ruined and waiting for her. She’d stopped the car outside the gates, not meaning to park there, not knowing why.
The house was the same as always. Silent. Watching. A sullen wreck. But over the sound of her sister’s common sense and supportive outrage and a thousand variations on “he doesn’t know what he’s missing, babe”, she could almost hear a resonance in the air, something magnetic, melodic, almost like a call.
Was that what people meant?
But she’d let Hannah talk her around, composed herself, and carried on driving up to the A-road, gone to Hastings for the day and met up with some school friends, and Jazz had, after all, come around. It had been a roller coaster week where, just once, reality had allowed a happy ending. They’d been together ever since.
She hadn’t thought of that for years.
Lost in thought, she stepped out into the road without looking.
There was a hard thud as Mercy was thrown against the bonnet of a speeding car, followed by a sickening smack as she hit the tarmac.
“Bloody hell,” Brian Folger muttered, as the car swerved off without stopping. “Ju-une! June love, get out here a minute! Mercy’s copped it!” He shambled inside to report the hit-and-run, while June Folger bustled out, wiping her hands on her apron, to see if she could help.
“Oh, not again, poor lamb! I wish she’d look where she was going…”
Mercy had been thrown into the middle of the road. Another car braked sharply, stopping inches from her head. Her platinum bob, streaked with highlights of shocking pink and bubble-gum blue, was matted with fresh blood. Her sightless eyes were open, fixed on the sky. June pulled down the hem of Mercy’s short peach dress to preserve her modesty, tutting at the large hole in the younger woman’s creamy lace tights. Her neck was obviously broken.
June rearranged her, puffing as she kneeled down (“Not with your hip, June!” Brian shouted from the shop door), and carefully – or as carefully as she could while exerting the necessary force – yanked Mercy’s broken leg into a straighter position. She tried to hold the limp head straight.
June was down there for ten minutes, holding up the traffic, before Mercy’s chest swelled with air and she sat bolt upright in the road.
“Didn’t stop, love,” June said, checking the bones in Mercy’s neck with practised fingers. Onlookers had gathered, cars queuing up or trying to turn around. Community Police Officers were running towards them in their hi-viz jackets. “Bri got his plates though, he’ll be for it when they catch him. CCTV at the front of the shop and everything. Some people are brazen, aren’t they?”
Mercy drew her knees up, checking her legs. They had mended, but her tights and bag of cherries were not so easily salvageable. “Bugger.” She caught sight of the approaching CPOs, one already on his radio as he ran towards them. “Bugger.” She didn’t have time for this.
“Oh, I’ll get you a new bag,” June said, waving a gobsmacked bystander off like a fly. “Come on.”
June needed more help than Mercy in getting up off the road: Brian had to waddle over to heave her up, leaving Mercy to scramble to her feet without assistance.
“I’m going to be so late,” Mercy moaned, dusting herself down. “You can tell the officers my details, right June? I don’t have to stay?”
“No, no, you get on, are you sure you don’t want those cherries?” June limped to the pavement, leaning on Brian’s arm.
“No, thanks though!” Mercy was safely across the road on the other side. She waved. “See you again!”
Off she went, still intrigued by the newest Crows story.