The Last Family in England: Deleted Chapters 2

Missing teenager sub-plot

Originally the novel was going to include a shadowy sub-plot about a missing teenager, Sophie Field, who was a pupil at the school where Adam Hunter taught. I eventually decided against it because it was starting to move the emphasis away from the family and the dogs in the park. It also sat uneasily next to some of the other scenes.

Here is an extract from the amputated sub-plot:

‘Turn on the news.’

Adam was hardly through the door. No-one else had even noticed his arrival and his words failed to be heard above Hal and Charlotte’s music. He shut the door and I wagged my greeting. No response.

Something was wrong.

He dropped his bag and walked through to the kitchen with me close at heel. Human food smells everywhere. Kate was making the dinner. She turned, jumped.

‘I didn’t hear you,’ and then: ‘You look terrible. What happened?’

‘Something dreadful. Sophie. Sophie Field. You know, from year seven. The girl whose phone I confiscated last week. She’s disappeared.’

Kate’s jaw dropped, ‘disappeared?’

‘Yes. It’s on the news.’ He looked at his watch. ‘Now.’

Moments later the whole family were in front of the television. Adam and Kate were on the settee, flanked by Hal and Charlotte on each arm.

The woman on the television was crying. She could hardly speak. Her hands were shaking as she read from a piece of paper, her husband’s arm around her shoulder. Camera’s flashed.

‘ . . . Sophie if you are watching we want you to know that you are not in any trouble. We all love you very much and everyone misses you . . .’ The woman’s head dropped. She made a noise, a whimper. More flashes than before. ‘ . . . we just want to know that you are safe and that nothing . . . nothing bad has happened to you. Your dad . . .and your brother . . . and everybody all love you and we miss . . .’ She put the piece of paper down. ‘ . . . we miss your voice . . . and we miss the sound of you laughing in the morning and your singing . . .your singing in the bathroom . . . I can’t . . . Sophie . . . please . . . I . . . I’ll never . . . tell you off . . .I . . .’

At this point a policeman bent down and whispered in her ear and a man in a suit started talking.

‘Poor woman,’ said Kate, clutching onto Charlotte’s hand.

A series of photographs appeared on the screen. Sophie on holiday. Sophie with her cat. Sophie wearing a paper crown. Sophie in her school uniform.

‘Nobody at school can believe it,’ said Adam.

The man in the suit was telling us more about the situation. Sophie disappeared on Sunday morning on her way to get some milk and bread from her corner shop. ‘According to the accounts of her family, friends and teachers Sophie is a happy girl who had no clear reason to run away. The police are keeping all lines of enquiry open . . .’

And then, with no warning, Adam is on the screen.

‘Dad it’s you!’


‘ . . . well obviously we are all devastated. Sophie is a fun, lively member of this school who has a large circle of friends. As a parent myself, I realise what a nightmare this situation is and how devastating it will be for her family.’

Hal slapped a hand on his father’s back.

‘Wow, dad. You’re famous!’

Kate looked at him, scornfully. ‘Hal, this is serious.’

‘Why? She’ll have only run away.’

‘No,’ said Adam. ‘That’s the thing. If I had to think of a girl at school who would run away she’d be the last the list, she really would.’

‘But they always say that don’t they,’ Hal went on, moving back on the arm of the sofa. ‘It’s like with serial killers. They always interview the neighbours and they say, “Oooh no, there was nothing suspicious about him. He was an ever so nice man. He was a member of Neighbourhood Watch.” So it just goes to show you never know what’s below the surface.’

Another look from Kate. ‘Hal, please.’

I closed my eyes, trying to work out what this situation meant for the family. If you could smell the future, wasn’t it also possible that you could hear the future too? Wasn’t it possible that if I listened carefully enough I would know what could happen, and how to prevent it?

In the dark, the room became voices.

Adam’s voice: ‘Charlotte, you mustn’t be worried, but you will have to be a bit careful from now on. I don’t think you should be walking anywhere on your own.’

Charlotte’s voice: ‘Oh, but -’

Kate’s voice: ‘Your dad’s only worried about you. You’ve got to realise how serious this is.’

Charlotte’s voice: ‘But why just me? Why not Hal?’ Adam’s voice: ‘Because Hal is older than you. And he’s a boy.’

Charlotte’s voice: ‘That’s discrimination against women.’

Kate’s voice: ‘Charlotte. A young girl has gone missing. She lives less than two miles away. We’re not even arguing about this. From now on, if you need to go anywhere we’ll drive you.’

Charlotte’s voice: ‘I’m not going anywhere in that car. I can look after myself.’

Hal’s voice: ‘If anyone started to attack you, you could always play your new Slipknot album. That would make them think twice. Huh huh.’

Charlotte’s voice: ‘Very funny.’

Hal’s voice: ‘Ow that hurt.’

Kate’s voice: ‘Adam will you tell them.’

Adam’s voice: ‘Enough you two. This is serious.’