Penny woke with a start. Something had disturbed her sleep, something out of place… there it was again. A tapping on the front door.
‘Derek.’ She shook her husband awake. ‘Derek, there’s someone at the door.’
‘What time is it?’ Derek was groggy, full of ale and unhappy about being woken up.
‘Just gone two.’
‘Ignore it, Pen, it’s the middle of the bloody night.’
Seconds later he was asleep again. Penny swung her legs out of bed, shuffled her feet into her slippers. Her head felt woozy and she regretted that last glass of wine: she’d be hung over in the morning and she had a busy day ahead of her, starting with picking the kids up from Derek’s mum’s house. The tapping began again. She sighed, pulled the bedroom door shut behind her and flipped on the landing light.
‘Who is it?’ she called when she got to the front door. ‘Who’s there?’
She heard a strangled sob, then: ‘Mum.’ She fumbled the lock, panic making her clumsy, and yanked the door open to see her eldest daughter, bedraggled and tearstained. Penny gathered her child to her, felt the little girl sag against her, helped her over the step and into the sitting room, shushing her and flipping on lights as she went.
Once they were seated, she brushed her daughter’s hair out of her eyes, fighting the swell of panic, trying to stay calm, trying not to scare the girl even more. ‘Tina, what’s happened, pet? Why are you not at your gran’s?’
‘Mum…’ Tina’s eyes were full of fear.
‘Where’s Annie?’ asked Penny, suddenly very afraid. Her two girls were inseparable.
Tina shuddered. ‘She’s…’ she began, hesitantly. Then she cried out, ‘Mum, he took her! The man, he put us in his car and he took Annie!’