Stack Of One
The third volume of the 'Lost Boys' quartet.
Skinner’s mother Megan is hiding in plain sight. She has a job at the 24 hour breakfast café at the motorway services. The café is no-one’s destination, just an en route stop-off for strangers on the journey to somewhere else, and nobody local would ever dream of going there. She lives in the twilight of the careful shroud of anonymity she has drawn around herself, prevented by her traumatic past from embracing the future, and desperately missing Skinner, the son she left behind.
Guy is hiding too. After eight years with a Commando unit in Afghanistan he has made a career U turn and lost himself in a job as a reporter on a weekly paper in a small northern backwater. But Guy finds that life in a small town can be very small-minded indeed, and that local loyalties firmly exclude newcomers who would expose people’s carefully kept secrets.
Skinner goes missing and Guy is tasked with investigating the story. Then Megan finds herself embroiled in the search for a little boy lost in the raging river. Guy’s front page story tears Megan’s veil away, and forces her to confront her ghosts; not only the son she has abandoned, but the husband she is so desperate to evade.
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At ten-thirty reinforcements arrive in the shape of a wheezing, pendulously-breasted woman whose hair has been so abused over the years with peroxide and perming solution that what little of it remains is wiry and grizzled; her head is as bristly as a balding Brillo. She is one of the casual staff, brought in to cover for the café’s supervisor, who is on holiday in Florida. She waddles amongst the tables with asthmatic effort collecting plates while Megan slips away for a break, gliding down the escalator to the ground floor. It feels, as it always does, like a slow immersion into a flowing river; the people are a constant current of movement in and through and away again; regular as waves they lap against the counters and gush down to the lavatories, eddying around the tables leaving deposits of litter before surging out and away. The flood of bodies is so tangible to her that she is almost tempted, as she descends, to hold her breath.