Talking to Ghosts

Talking to Ghosts by Hervé Le Corre, Frank Wynne

Book: Talking to Ghosts by Hervé Le Corre, Frank Wynne Read Free Book Online
Authors: Hervé Le Corre, Frank Wynne
to the ground. He rolled as he landed on the lawn and stayed for a moment on all fours, feeling the soft grass against the palms of his hands. He looked back at the building, studying the shadowy windows. Nothing moved. He ran through the darkness along the line of trees towards the fence and scaled it effortlessly. He started walking northwards. Towards home. When he came to the first streetlamps he tugged vainly at the collar of his jacket, trying to hide his face. He took only dimly lit streets, running past houses slumbering in small gardens where now and then a dog rushed up, barking at him and baring its teeth through the wire fence. Then, suddenly fearless, he dashed across broad avenues, bent double as though dodging sniper fire. He could easily have encountered a police car, but he saw none. Above a billboard he saw the time: 1.30 a.m. The city was deserted, the only noise now was a low murmur, the gentle breathing of a monster at rest.
    It took him almost two hours to reach home. As he cut through the dockland area known as Les Bassins à flot, he got scared. Water swirled in the darkness, gurgling like a hungry mouth, and he had a fleeting image of some terrifying slimy creature. Sweat ran down his back in ticklish rivulets and he rubbed the back of his T-shirt with his fingertips. Passing the old submarine base and turning onto the rue Blanqui he felt the urge to run, to sprint the last few hundred metres, but his legs stubbornly refused to obey him and he trudged along the streets where he had spent his childhood, glancing anxiously about him like a wanted fugitive. He kept a watch on the sky, for at any moment, he knew, the treacherous blue of dawn might appear, rousing innocent sleepers.
    He stopped at the corner of his road, suddenly breathless. He could see his house, and the dark blinds of Madame Huvenne’s house next door, could picture her tossing and turning in her bed, her legs crippled with rheumatism. A jumbled crowd of memories teemed in his mind.
    For the first time, he pictured his life in the past tense.
    He scrambled over the gate, just as he had whenever he forgot hiskeys, jumped down into the garden, panting, scratching himself on the perfumed rose bushes, those familiar hydras that bent their many heads towards him, walked around the house and stood under the silk tree, breathing in the smell of the long grass. He tried to calm the beating of his heart, breathing deeply through his mouth, then fumbled under a flower pot, found a bunch of keys and, ripping away the police tape, managed to open one the French windows. He stood on the threshold, panting. The smell of death still hung in the darkness, a fetid spectre that forced the boy back outside, where he bent double, his stomach heaving, retching up bilious gobs of phlegm.
    Steeling himself, Victor stepped into the house, throwing the French doors wide and waving his hands, which did nothing to dispel this thing that still haunted the place, that gnawed at his stomach, crushing his lungs in its loathsome invisible hands. Turning on the light, he walked more confidently into the hallway, stepped into the kitchen and opened the drawer next to the sink, searching methodically until he found a packet of batteries which he stuffed into his jacket pocket. He looked around at the familiar décor, the cupboards with their crooked doors, the potted plant by the window drooping for lack of water. He stepped closer to the large calendar of film posters that was still showing “Les Enfants du Paradis” and studied the dreamy expression of Arletty and, behind her, the faces of Jean-Louis Barrault and Pierre Brasseur leading the jubilant crowds on the boulevard du Crime. He knew nothing about these actors, or about the film, but was surprised to see the name of Jacques Prévert in the credits. He lifted the page to see what film had been chosen for July: it was “The Asphalt Jungle”. In the foreground he saw Sterling Hayden,

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