YA Urban Fantasy
Shy sixteen-year-old Hannah prefers to blend into the background of her derelict seaside town, but when her pregnant best friend goes missing, Hannah befriends a group of travelling musicians and starts to look for her.
As the search for Cassie intensifies, signs begin to point to the group of strange tattooed men who visit the town every year. Why are they watching the town’s children? And why do they haunt the shoreline so intently? Fearing their plans, and the truth about her own identity, Hannah probes further and finds that only the power of her own voice can stop them from stealing the people she loves most.
The lead singer is about my age, sixteen, seventeen maybe, tall, with night blue eyes. He’s too washed out to be good-looking, but there’s something about him that makes me glance away when he looks in my direction. Gripping the mic, he belts out an old sea shanty that I vaguely recognise from my songbooks, his voice swooping through the notes as he taps his hand against his skinny thigh.Two girls accompany him, joining in with harmonies that blend like milk and honey. The red-haired one plucks at a battered violin, the other, a blonde willowy girl, strums an acoustic guitar. Their clothes are scraggy – long skirts, vests and scarves even though it’s only September and still warm. They play brilliantly. Their fingers blur on the strings like hummingbirds’ wings. For a second, I forget everything – Cassie’s pregnancy, the competition, the loan. All I want to do is lose myself in the music.
They’re halfway into the third song, another old folk ballad, when I begin to notice that the boy’s gaze keeps on wandering towards the bar area. He blinks, adjusts his neck scarf with one hand, still singing. He’s trying to concentrate, but something or someone is distracting him. I look over my shoulder, trying to work out what he’s seen and spot them straightaway. Three men wearing dark t-shirts stretched over impossibly huge biceps, their arms etched with the same tattoo – a black line with three prongs. They’re staring straight at the boy and not in a good way – kind of shark-like, hungry.
I glance at the band again, wondering how they’ve managed to attract the men’s attention – maybe it’s to do with the girls? It could be anything, but I pray that whatever happens, it won’t stop them from playing. Their voices are so pure that it almost hurts to listen. Crystal-sharp top notes undercut with a deeper chord that vibrates through my bones. As the music curls around the stained ceiling, vivid images pierce my mind – a circle of men, an empty beach, broken green glass – the lyrics of the song brought to life. I can tell that everyone else is spellbound too. The audience stands stock still, completely silent. No chatting, no clinking of glasses even when the boy brings the last song to its silk-soft close.
For a second, I’m with them too, hypnotised by the bass line, but then I remember Cassie. While everyone’s shaking themselves out of their trance, I hurry towards the nearest clear space and peer across the mash of bodies before they scramble for drinks.
There’s no sign of Cass or Max.