Fans of Serial and Making A Murderer: Read An Extract of She Lies In The Vines

Read an exclusive extract of Benjamin Stevenson's gripping thriller She Lies In Vines, now available to pre-order.

Posted on April 24, 2019 in Extract, Guest Author
Tags: Author Content, Extract, crime thriller

‘Outstanding . . . an absorbing thriller told with heart and wit. Morality and ambition clash on a journey full of twists as [this] takes readers from the cut-throat media landscape to a sleepy town full of secrets’ Jane Harper

Read an exclusive extract of Benjamin Stevenson’s gripping thriller She Lies In Vines, now available to pre-order here.

PROLOGUE

PREVIOUSLY

It was the dripping that woke her. And the smell. In the dark – it might have even been night, though it was always dark – she couldn’t isolate the sound. She decided it was important to know this, if only because it barricaded her from her usual first thought on waking: He’s back.

Steady and rhythmic on the concrete floor: plink , plink. Not rain. Rain was the sound of fingers thrumming on a car roof, an almost underwater echo, down here. Plink. Plink. Plink. Not rain. Her left arm was draped out of the bed; she wondered if she’d finally managed to . . . if the drip was coming from her wrist. She’d thought about it once, but failed for courage. He’d found her cradled in a corner, shard in hand, skin unpierced. Too scared to do it, he’d said, and taken the bottles away.

The bottles were gone now. Plink. Plink. Not that either, then. The dripping sped up. Individual drips blurring together in a spatter. He’d pissed in the corner once, on the floor. Her pulse quickened. Had he come — — No. That had been loud. And hot. Steam rising from the puddle as if he’d pissed acid. She rubbed her forehead, a near-physical memory: the condensation, the way it had settled, sticky, on her brow. Not that. It was cold now. It was always cold down here. She thought it was coming from her right. Elevated, from the roof. A pipe in the ceiling maybe. But she’d scoured the bare walls and she remembered no pipes. Besides, pipe water didn’t smell so cloying.

She sat up. Now the dripping seemed to be coming from in front and behind her. More than one leak, then. She put a foot on the floor and gasped. It was freezing. Wet. Tendrils of liquid snaked in between her toes. She stood up, shrugging her blanket off. Shivered. The dripping was getting louder, all around now. Was she imagining it?

It was hard to keep track of things. The time, the day, the most obvious markers. How long she’d been there. Sometimes she began to lose even the most certain things. Who she was. Who she used to be. In the dark, it was easy to lose yourself. What was her name again? Sometimes she wrote it down. Traced it in the condensation on the walls. Just to remind herself. Others used to write her name, too. Journalists. Detectives. That sort of thing.

She took a step, felt beads of liquid pool at her heel, tumble down the arch of her foot and suicide off her toe. Near the centre of the room it was drier. The residue on her feet peeled off with each step. Shedding skin. Her name would be gone from the papers now. In the centre of the room hung a long piece of thick cord with a knot at the end. It turned on a single, dull light. She swung her arm, missed, rotated her torso and tried again.

Maybe her name would pop up again. Perhaps an obituary (though the memory of the shard of glass, useless against her pale skin, suggested that particular mercy was out of reach). Maybe one of those retrospective crime shows. Yes. In a couple more years, maybe, someone would write her name again. Until then, she had to remember it. In case no one else did.

She felt the cord bounce off her forearm. She wished she had her shoes on. Her feet were gently stuck to the floor now, the fluid tacky and deepening around the sides of her feet. Her name. She tried to focus on that. What did it start with? She knew her parents’ names – Malcolm and Helen. But she’d lost their faces now. Her mother’s had been the first to go. Her father’s soon after. She still had images of them in her head, sure, but those images were distorted. They were the cinematic versions of her parents – missing the moments that made them real, a slight bruise on an elbow, the black tooth at the back of her mother’s jaw you could only see when she laughed: those human flaws. In her mind her dad wore a suit – he hadn’t worn a suit since he’d retired – and a tie he didn’t own. His face was a kaleidoscope, composited from a fragmented collection of memories. There was only one face she remembered now.

She shook her head, went again for the cord. The liquid sounded as if it was gushing down the walls all around her now. The sickly sweet smell had crept into the back of her throat. She tried to remind herself of these simple facts often. Malcolm and Helen. Plink. Malcolm and Helen. Simple concepts, her mind wrestling them into reality. No one could take those from her. Not even him.

Eliza! Her cheeks flushed with the discovery. Malcolm, Helen and Eliza. She couldn’t believe she’d forgotten so much. Her own name fi shed, thrashing, from the swamp of her confusion. But now she had the name in her head, she couldn’t fi t into it. It was as if it were someone else’s name. Someone else’s confidence hitching around Australia. Someone else’s charm talking her into work at pubs and farms and vineyards. Someone else’s brashness cashing in on some good old-fashioned blackmail. Maybe she couldn’t remember her name because that Eliza was dead: nothing but a wisp of lingering smoke from a snuffed-out candle. You’re being dramatic, she told herself. You’re confused from being down here for . . . How long had she been down here?

That was a more slippery truth. She’d begun by counting sleeps, but that proved futile when she started sleeping when she was hungry. And she was always hungry. A few months, though; that sounded fair. Longer? A year? Long enough to not be in the papers. Long enough to lose herself. She felt the cord against the back of her wrist and twirled her hand to catch it.

She thought back to the shard of glass, harmless in her hand. He said she’d been too scared. He was wrong. She hadn’t been scared enough. Eliza Dacey turned on the light. She saw her blood-red footprints leading from the bed. Droplets sputtered from the roof, feeding the dark liquid monster that was consuming the floor. And long, almost-black rivulets ran down all four walls. All a violent, cascading red. The walls were bleeding. She was scared enough now.

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