Read The Sound of a Scream Online

Authors: John Manning

The Sound of a Scream

Daphne steadied herself at the sink, splashing some cold water on her face. Why was she suddenly so frightened? It was more than just Gregory’s questions.
A sound from the stall made her turn.
A thud.
The woman sitting on the toilet had leaned—fallen?—against the side of the stall.
Daphne’s eyes dropped to the floor.
A small stream of dark blood was running across the tiles from under the stall, and had nearly reached Daphne’s feet.
She rushed around to the front of the stall. The door was not locked. She quickly pushed it open.
There, on the toilet, fully dressed in a white waitress uniform, slumped a woman.
Someone had slit her throat... .
Books by John Manning
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
Kensington Publishing Corp.
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
As Daphne stepped off the train, the howl of a distant animal briefly obscured the sound of the wind. But still the wind was there, tossing her long auburn hair in front of her face and whistling through the wooden slats of the platform. Daphne shivered as she looked from one end of the station to the other. There was no one to greet her. There was only the heavy orange October moon hanging in the purple-black sky.
She wasn’t sure what to do. A shade was pulled down at the ticket booth across the way with a sign that read CLOSED. Only one other person had gotten off the train with her at this windswept, godforsaken station, a man whose footsteps now echoed ahead of her as he quickly crossed the platform toward the parking lot.
Daphne shivered again and looked up at the sky. It had been raining when they left Boston, but here it was only damp and cold. Still, she knew the rain was coming, racing along the coast as if trying to catch her, a mad, determined stalker. As the train had pulled into the village, Daphne had looked down from the craggy cliffs at the roiling Atlantic crashing far below her and shivered in her seat. Mother Angela had warned her it would be this way: “Why else do you think they call it Point Woebegone?”
Taking a deep breath, Daphne stepped across the platform and down the wooden steps to the parking lot, carrying her small suitcase at her side. Despite the fact that they had promised a car would meet her here, no one was waiting in the lot for her either. Perhaps the car was just late; perhaps the train had been a few moments early and all she needed to do was wait and someone would come. After all, the people who had summoned her here from Boston, who had been so eager for her arrival, couldn’t have forgotten about her. Still, as the shadows flickered in the windy moonlight, Daphne couldn’t shake a sense of foreboding. There was something about this place that she didn’t like, didn’t trust. She should never have come. She should have listened to her instincts and said no when Mother Angela had brought her the letter.
“Excuse me,” came a voice, startling her out of her thoughts.
Daphne looked around. It was the man who had gotten off the train ahead of her. He was standing next to a car in the deep shadows of the parking lot.
“Are you in need of a ride?” he asked.
“I was supposed to be met here,” Daphne told him.
The man smiled. He looked to be in his early thirties, tall and handsome and red-haired. “Well, I can’t imagine a more inhospitable place to be stood up. There’s a reason they call this Point Woebegone, you know.”
“So I’ve heard.”
“I’d be happy to give you a ride into town,” the man said.
Daphne hesitated. “I—well, I should probably just wait... .”
“It’s going to rain soon.”
Daphne wasn’t used to strange men offering her rides in their cars. In fact, not once in her twenty-two years had she ever been in a car with a man—except for old Father O’Donnell, and then there were always two or three of the other girls as well, plus Mother Angela, who, despite being relatively young (Daphne thought she was probably mid-forties) proved a stern chaperone. Daphne wasn’t so naïve that she didn’t realize she’d grown up extremely sheltered. She knew there was a big, wide world out there she had yet to experience. Part of her reason for accepting this job was so that she could finally leave the safe confines of Our Lady’s School for Girls and enter the real world. Not that the “real world” was something Daphne particularly wanted; she had been quite happy at Our Lady, and would gladly have remained there even though she had graduated. She had no calling to become a nun herself, but she would have been glad to help the sisters and teach the younger girls. But one day Mother Angela had brought her a letter from a man who lived on the rocky northern Maine coast, in a place called Point Woebegone, and who was offering her a job as live-in governess to his young son.
It was crazy, Daphne thought. She’d never heard of this man, this Peter Witherspoon. But one of the school’s benefactors had recommended her for the position, Mother Angela explained, and she urged Daphne to take it. “It’s time for you leave us, my dear,” the nun had said. “There is more for you to see and know in this world.”
And so Daphne had come. It hadn’t taken the real world long to rush up and meet her. Just minutes after she stepped off the train, here was a strange, handsome man beckoning her to his car, and despite her hesitation, there was a stirring somewhere down deep inside Daphne that she didn’t want to admit.
“I should wait,” she said finally.
“All right, whatever you say,” the man said, smiling, giving her a little bow, then turning around to unlock his car door.
Just then, as if in a movie, the black skies opened up and pelted the ground with a cold, hard rain. The raindrops felt like ice pellets as they slapped against Daphne’s face.
The man, about to enter his car, looked back at her over his shoulder.
Daphne ran toward him.
“I guess—I guess I should take you up on your offer!” she called, and he smiled—kindly, she thought. She hoped.
He hurried around to open the passenger side door. She thanked him and slid into the warm, dry, leather-fragranced interior. She’d managed to see the word BOXSTER on the back of the car as she passed. She thought that meant the car was a Porsche—she’d seen pictures on the Internet— and she was pretty sure Porsches were expensive cars.
“Thank you,” she said as the man settled into the driver’s seat and closed his door.
“Not a problem.” He smiled over at her, his teeth very white in the dark. The rain pounded hard against the roof of the car. “And you needn’t fear accepting rides from strange men here in Point Woebegone. We might be a little cold and raw in these parts, but our hearts are pretty warm.”
Daphne gave him a small, tight smile. The man’s words were reassuring, but she still wasn’t comfortable accepting a ride from a man whose name she didn’t even know.
Almost as if reading her mind, her savior from the rain remedied that problem. “Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Gregory Winston.” He smiled, flashing that white smile again. “The third, if you’re keeping count.”
“Daphne May,” she told him.
“Now that’s a pretty name. Your full name? Or is that just one of those sweet-sounding first-and-middle-name confections?”
She laughed. “No, it’s my full name. May is my ... last name.”
As Gregory started the ignition, Daphne didn’t add that it wasn’t a real last name. At least not for her. It was simply the name given to her by the nuns, since they’d found her on their doorstep on a bright sunny morning in the month of May. The note pinned to her bassinet read:
Her name is Daphne. Please care for her well.
The nuns had done so, despite urgings from the local bishop to put her up for adoption. They’d raised her, taught her, loved her. Especially Mother Angela, who’d pulled Daphne to her small bosom before she’d gotten on that train and held her so tight that Daphne thought they might fuse that way, and nothing or no one would ever be able to part them.
As the Porsche glided smoothly out of the parking lot and onto the dark road, Daphne missed Mother Angela with a sudden and terrible fierceness. Here she was, in a strange man’s car, heading to a strange house, all by herself, in a place she’d never been before. She’d never done anything on her own in her life. Mother Angela—born Angela Mastroianni, the only child of devout Italian immigrants—had always been with her. Mother had been like a real mother, there when Daphne took her first baby steps to the proud moment when she received her diploma, a graduate of Our Lady’s Teacher’s College. Mother had loved all the girls, but always seemed to make Daphne feel as if she mattered most. She guessed that’s how all the girls felt.
Daphne looked out through the watery car windows and blinked back tears.
The other sisters had been disappointed that she didn’t want to become a nun herself. But Mother Angela had supported her. “It is not your destiny, my dear,” she said. “As much as we would love to have you here with us always, God has other plans for you. You will see.”
“Are you staying at the inn?” Gregory asked her, interrupting her memories. “It’s in the center of town.”
“No,” Daphne replied, removing a piece of paper from the pocket of her coat. “The address is ... well, all it says is Witherswood, Cliff Road.”
The man looked over at her, without a smile this time.
“You’re going to Witherswood?”
“Yes. That’s the address I have here.”
“Whatever for?” He immediately lifted his hand in apology. “That’s none of my business, I’m sorry. It’s just that—”
“Just that what?”
The car hit a hole in the road and rainwater splashed against Daphne’s window. She pulled back slightly in surprise.
“Well, I just didn’t expect a pretty young girl just off the train to be heading to Witherswood. But now I understand why there was no car as they promised you. Poor old Pete seems to be forgetting more and more these days.”
“Pete? You mean Mr. Witherspoon?”
Gregory nodded. “Good old Pete owns half this town.” The smile had returned as he looked over at Daphne and winked. “I own the other half.”
“Oh,” Daphne said in a small voice. She had expected from the car that Gregory was a wealthy man. “Well, all I know is Mr. Witherspoon has hired me as a governess for his eight-year-old son, Christopher.”
Gregory made a short, whistling sound. “Governess to young Christopher! Well, you
have your work cut out for you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Have you ever met any of the residents of Witherswood?”
“Then it’s not my place to say.” He looked over at her with sympathetic eyes, then returned his gaze to the road. “And as much as I’d like to be gallant and drive you right up to the front door of Witherswood, I’m afraid it would harm your new employer’s opinion of you if they saw you get out of Gregory Winston’s car.”
“Why is that?”
“Nothing to trouble your pretty mind over. Up ahead is the Woebegone Inn. I was planning on stopping there for a little dinner myself. You can get a cab there—which I hope you’ll allow me to pay for, since I’m being such a cad and not driving you the whole way.”
“Oh, no, I have money,” Daphne said. Mr. Witherspoon had sent not only the train ticket but also two hundred dollars for traveling expenses. He seemed to be a very generous man.
But also a rather ... well, peculiar one, if Gregory Winston could be trusted.
The question was, how much
Gregory be trusted? As they pulled up in front of the inn, Daphne was eager to get out of the car. No doubt there were reasons why the Witherspoons wouldn’t approve of her being seen with this man—reasons Daphne didn’t much care to speculate about. She should have braved the rain and waited at the station. Surely the car would have shown up eventually.
After switching off the ignition, Gregory quickly jumped out and ran around to open Daphne’s door, opening an umbrella over her head. They hurried into the inn, splashing through puddles and mud.
The place was dark, paneled in deep brown, hung with fishing nets and buoys and life preservers. The floorboards were uneven, warped from decades of sea air. A grizzled old man with skin like leather greeted them and, recognizing Gregory, waved them inside.
“I have my own table,” Gregory told her with a grin, his cheeks dimpling. “Will you join me for a quick drink?”
“No, thank you. Where do I get the cab?”
Gregory pointed to a sign on the wall reading T
AXI. “
There’s the number,” he said.
“I’m sorry” Daphne said, “but I don’t own a cell phone.”
He looked at her with some surprise. Daphne understood why. It wasn’t often these days that a twenty-two-year-old didn’t have a cell phone. But such things were not regulation at Our Lady.
The grizzled old man had overheard her. “I can call the cab for ya, sweetheart. But it’s prob’ly gonna be about forty minutes or so. With the rain, Tony’s bound to be kind of busy tonight.”
Gregory gave her a look of understanding. “You see, there’s only one cab driver in Point Woebegone. You must remember this is a seasonal town. During the summer Tony has a couple of helpers. But after Labor Day, it’s just him and his rebuilt 1980 Mercedes Diesel.”
“Oh,” Daphne said, in another small voice. “Then I should call Mr. Witherspoon. I’m sure he will send a car.”
“Witherspoon?” The old man lifted bushy white eyebrows. “You’re not going out to Witherswood, are ya?”
“I am indeed.”
He laughed, and Gregory joined. “There’s no phone at Witherswood. Never has been. I suspect the new misses has a cell, but there’s never been a phone line out to that house, not as far back as I can remember, and that’s a long time.”
“I’m afraid you’ll just have to join me after all,” Gregory said, gesturing to his table, “and wait for Tony to arrive.”
Daphne sighed and followed him past a blazing fireplace, which lit the room with an orange glow. At a small, round, oaken table off to the side, Gregory held out a chair for Daphne to sit down. She took her seat, setting her suitcase alongside her.

Other books

Stardogs by Dave Freer
The Babylon Rite by Tom Knox
Shadows in Bronze by Lindsey Davis
Paige Cameron by Commando Cowboys Find Their Desire
Blood on the Moon by James Ellroy
While the City Slept by Eli Sanders
by J. Max Gilbert
My Man Godric by Cooper, R.