First Chapter: The Hurting: The Glasgow Terror by RJ Mitchell

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THE FIRST shards of light splintered their way through the bedroom curtain as the greyness of the morning light started to fill the room and slowly Thoroughgood began to waken from a fractured sleep.

Turning over onto his left side he reached out across the bed searching for her presence but the sheets were smooth and the bed was empty. Slowly the stupor of his drowsy awakening gave way to the cruel reality that was his waking hours. She was gone . . . gone forever.

His eyes flashed as the feeling of blind panic that had marked the start of his every day since Celine had been taken from him gripped his mind and body anew. He sighed out loud and stared uncomprehending at the space in the bed where she should be lying, where she had been lying what seemed liked a moment ago, so alive, so real, so sensuous, so Celine. But now she was no more, forever consigned to his past, yet during his sleeping hours so much a part of his present.

He had taken the offer to come to Castlebrae, the Scottish Police Convalescence home, thinking that a break in the Perthshire countryside might help him escape the torment that had seemed to taint everything in Glasgow.

Glasgow. Where everything reminded him of Celine and the man who had ended her life and his hopes of happiness . . . Declan Meechan.

He ran his right hand through the strands of the jet black hair that was increasingly grey- streaked. Sat up in the bed staring at the curtain ahead and then the Hurting came and it was too much. Gus Thoroughgood buried his head in his knees and wept until his body was wracked with a pain he knew would never go away and all the time her face remained the focus of his mind’s eye. Then the voice in his head spoke up.

“C’mon Gus get it together, a month up here and you still haven’t got it under control, face facts; she’s gone and she ain’t coming back, you’ve got to start again.’

The problem was, where did he make that start, when nothing seemed to work? It had been almost five months since he had found Celine at Meechan’s place, shot dead by a hired killer, so still, so peaceful, never more beautiful and yet so dead.

Grief had given way to anger. Alcohol had provided a false balm for the pain that seemed to sear his very being. He had tried to throw himself into his work and find a way to occupy every moment of the day. Failed.

Eventually it had been too much and Superintendent Tomachek had summoned him to his smoke-filled room. There, with his partner Kenny Hardie adding some moral support, they had suggested he take a month’s leave at Castlebrae.

“A change of scene might help you put some distance between what has happened down here and maybe get some perspective on it all. Help you decide how to start again.” Tomachek had said, trying to find some advice that might kickstart the healing process by offering him a way forward.

The anger surged anew through his veins as he thought back to that day and his reaction to the best advice the old boy could come up with.

“Just what the fuck is there to start again?” He had leaned across Tomachek’s desk and the old man had recoiled from the fury that had spread across his features.

“That bastard Meechan has murdered the only woman I’ve ever loved and gone scot free, so please enlighten me, just what do you think I can start again?” He had ripped his warrant card out from his jacket pocket and tossed it onto the table. “I’ve sacrificed everything for this fuckin’ job and with it has gone everything that meant anything to me. You can stick yer fuckin’ job up your arse. I can’t give it any more.”

With that he had charged out the office, almost taking the door off its hinges in the process and leaving the disbelieving Tomachek and Hardie stunned in a combination of silence and pity at his meltdown.

Now, Thoroughgood got to his feet, pulled the curtains open and stared out at the gently rolling hillside painted in pleasing pastel shades.

He looked at his watch and saw that it was Saturday and he had a visitor today. Hardie was coming to pick him up and take him back to the place he had called home – Glasgow.

But as the moisture filled his eyes afresh and he felt droplets trace down his cheeks and salt slither into his mouth the voice in his head asked. “How can you call it home when there’s nothing there for you anymore?”

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