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The Reservoir Tapes

Jon McGregor


  4th Estate

  An imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

  1 London Bridge Street

  London SE1 9GF

  This eBook first published in Great Britain by 4th Estate in 2017

  Copyright © 2017 Jon McGregor

  Cover photographs ©

  Jon McGregor asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work

  A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

  This collection is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

  All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins.

  Source ISBN: 9780008235659

  Ebook Edition © December 2017 ISBN: 9780008235642

  Version: 2017-11-13



  Title Page


  1: Charlotte

  2: Vicky

  3: Deepak

  4: Graham

  5: Liam

  6: Claire

  7: Clive

  8: Martin

  9: Stephanie

  10: Donna

  11: Ian

  12: Irene

  13: Ginny

  14: Jess

  15: Joe


  Also by Jon McGregor

  About the Author

  About the Publisher

  1: Charlotte

  Could you

  I’d like to hear about that day, before anything happened.

  Just, from the beginning.

  You’d been staying in the village for how long?

  And you’d come back because the previous visit had gone so well, last summer?

  And you knew the Hunter family. You got on with them.

  So it was an easy decision, to come back for a winter break.

  Was it warm enough, in the cottage? I mean, the weather had been wet.

  It’s quite small, isn’t it, the cottage. Lovely. But small.

  Sorry, barn conversion.

  Had you been on any excursions? Had you gone for any walks?

  So you were maybe starting to feel a bit cooped up.

  Tell me about that morning.

  Did you all have breakfast together? Who was up first?

  This might sound trivial, but what would Becky have had, if she was eating breakfast alone?

  I know

  But these details. They help to build a picture.

  If you could

  Okay. And then did you come downstairs before she finished her breakfast?

  And was that when the idea of going for a walk was discussed?

  It would be fair to say that Becky’s response wasn’t positive, would it?

  Is it okay if I call her Becky?

  She wasn’t enthusiastic about the walk. And the weather wasn’t great, at that point.

  So you let the matter rest for the time being. To avoid a conflict.

  And then the two of you had your breakfast together, you and your husband? Something more elaborate, because you were on holiday, because you wanted to treat yourselves?

  But this wasn’t a special occasion. Other than being a holiday morning. You weren’t celebrating anything.


  You made a start on your breakfast, you made some coffee – maybe you read the paper? You were having the newspapers delivered while you were staying in the cottage, is that right?

  Barn conversion.

  Which newspaper?

  And Becky – she’ll have gone back up to her bedroom? Or put the television on?

  Could you

  could we

  if we could just talk a little bit about Becky. If you could describe her for me. In your own words. What she was like when she was younger. How she’s changed from being a child to being a young teenager. What her – gifts are, if you like. Any challenges there have been. Anything she has found difficult. Anything that comes to mind.

  I know

  I know this is difficult

  this must be very hard for

  of course.

  So, just to pick up again.

  This was the third day of your stay in the village; the idea of a walk had been raised but the weather was looking unsuitable. Becky had got up early, and had breakfast before you. What did she do during the rest of the morning? Had she brought any homework with her?

  She was friendly with the Hunters’ daughter, I understand. Did she spend any time with her that morning?

  Do you know if she was friendly with any of the other young people in the village?

  And you knew about that at the time?

  Had you met any of those young people when you were staying here last summer? Had you seen them when they came up to the Hunters’ property?

  There was one boy in particular who Becky became quite close to, wasn’t there: James?

  I know she’s only thirteen, yes.

  I wasn’t implying

  But he wasn’t someone you were aware of.

  Not at the time.

  So, that morning, Becky went across to the Hunters’ house, and you assumed she was spending some time with their daughter, Sophie.

  And she’s someone who makes friends easily, would you say? Back at home, is she sociable, does she have a range of friends?

  Are there any you’ve been uncomfortable about her associating with? Have her friendship groups changed recently?

  Does she spend much time on the internet?

  Do you monitor that, at all?

  So she was with Sophie, and by late morning she still hadn’t come back. But you had no cause for concern, you had no reason to think they’d gone far. The weather was still wet at that point, wasn’t it?

  And the original idea for the walk had been to get out before lunchtime, but with the weather you’d put that on hold.

  And late in the morning you went across to fetch Becky, from the Hunters’ house. Did you speak to either of Sophie’s parents?

  Both of them? So Sophie and Becky were there by themselves?

  Just Becky, by herself?

  Did you think the Hunters would have minded that?

  Sophie and her parents had been gone all morning, as far as you knew. Becky hadn’t seen them leaving?

  Were you surprised by this, were you concerned?

  How long have you known the Hunters?

  Would you describe them as friends?

  If we could

  to keep to

  So you had lunch, the three of you, together. And there was some discussion about how Becky had spent the morning, was there?

  How would you characterise her response?

  So there was some tension.

  Of course.

  Well, that’s teenagers.

  And is Becky someone comfortable with her own company, would you say? Back at home, would she often spend time by herself in that way, that you know of?

  So were you concerned that her behaviour that morning was out of character, that there might be something else behind it?

  But you didn’t discuss that with her. You put it down to
being on holiday, being in a different environment; just, usual teenage restlessness. You got lunch ready.

  And for lunch you had?

  By this point the weather was improving; the rain had stopped, the sky was clearing, and the idea of a walk was suggested again. A decision was made.

  I know.

  A decision was made, and immediately after lunch you began to gather a few things together, look at a map, make a plan. Can I ask what you took with you?

  So you weren’t planning on it being a long walk. You didn’t think it worth taking extra waterproofs as a precaution, snacks, a flask?

  No, of course, and


  Can I ask how well you know the area? Are you experienced walkers, would you say?

  But this was a route you’d walked in the summer, when you were here before? You’d followed that same path, from the visitor centre, up the hill towards the rock formations on the ridge?

  Black Bull Rocks, right.

  And had Becky been with you on those occasions? Would you say it was a route she was familiar with?

  But on this occasion she was reluctant.

  Perhaps we

  I’m curious

  Did you do a lot of walking when she was younger? Would you say the reluctance on this occasion was more around the tensions between you, rather than the walk itself?

  Would you describe Becky as fit and healthy? Does she do any sports?

  So the walk shouldn’t have been a problem for her.

  I do realise this must be

  of course


  If we could just go through the sequence of events.

  The three of you got into the car, your car, soon after lunch. So this would have been

  2 p.m. Okay. And the weather was clear. You’d asked Becky to wear something more suitable on her feet, but she’d refused and you didn’t want to start another argument.

  That’s understandable.

  You drove a short distance to the visitor centre and parked in the car park there. That would have taken, what, five minutes, ten?

  Was the visitor centre open? Did you see anyone there?

  Were there any other cars in the car park?

  So you parked near the main building, and went through the gate by the display board, following the track which leads diagonally up the hill towards Black Bull Rocks.

  I realise you’ve already

  I just would

  it does help

  Did you have a map?

  Because it was a route you knew. And you can see Black Bull Rocks almost from the car park in any case, can’t you? So it was a simple walk. It was going to be a short walk.

  Did you know how long you were expecting it to take?

  Did you know what time it was going to get dark?

  Had you looked at a weather forecast?

  Did you have a phone with you?

  Had you planned

  No, of course


  I do realise

  It is

  it’s actually rather misleading, isn’t it, the walk up to Black Bull Rocks? The path isn’t as direct as it looks from the bottom of the hill. There are several narrow gorges or valleys on the way. The path drops down steeply and climbs up out of each of these.

  They call them cloughs, locally, don’t they?

  And the streams through each of these are running high at this time of year, so it’s not always a simple matter getting across them. The ground can be quite boggy down there?

  And with the shoes Becky was wearing.

  Did she struggle at all?


  I mean, if she was having difficulty getting across the streams, keeping her feet dry. Did she express any discomfort or irritation, any reluctance? Did she ever want to stop, or go back?

  And did you wait for her, at that point?

  Did she catch up?

  But you at least kept her in sight?

  What were your feelings by then, if you don’t mind me asking?

  That’s understandable. Of course.

  My daughter was that age not so long ago, I know how

  Of course.

  Was there any discussion between the two of you about cutting the walk short? Given the conditions, and Becky’s behaviour?

  Was there any disagreement between the two of you, would you say?

  And by this point you’re how far up the track, how close to Black Bull Rocks?

  And had there been any change in the weather?

  So you had no reason to be concerned?

  How were you finding the conditions? You were wearing more suitable footwear, presumably? You had kept dry up until then?

  And had you seen anyone else, had you passed anyone on the track, had you seen anyone in the distance?


  this will, I understand

  I’m sorry

  Can you be clear about when you first realised Becky was out of sight?

  And you assumed

  she was coming up the steps out of the clough? You were not long out of it yourselves?

  How far behind would you say she was when you saw her last?

  I realise

  of course

  you have, I know

  But we agreed, didn’t we, that this would be

  a chance

  a chance for you to put your side of the story.

  Obviously I know you’ll have been through all this with the police, many times, I do appreciate

  I do

  But people have questions. Not just locally. People are

  It would be helpful to clarify

  It would be helpful to hear it from you. People would appreciate that.

  Is this?

  Can we?

  No, absolutely. None of this will

  You can decide, afterwards, you can reconsider.

  I just want to help you tell your side of the story.


  So. If we can

  You realised she was out of sight. You waited. She didn’t appear. You had already talked about cutting the walk short anyway so

  one of you wanted to

  You waited, and she didn’t appear. You went back to the top of the path leading up out of the clough, the valley, and you couldn’t see her there.

  And you called for her, presumably?

  You looked to see where she was, if she might be hiding?

  At what point did you start to actually become concerned?

  And the weather was turning?

  How long would you say you were looking before you decided to fetch help?

  And your phone

  So you had to come back

  You came down

  And you

  This is

  I know

  I’m sorry

  Could you

  are you able to say what happened next?

  2: Vicky

  The first Vicky knew about it was when the girl’s parents came bursting into the pub.

  The two of them were both talking at once and it took a minute to work out what they were saying. They couldn’t find her, was the gist of it.

  Their anoraks were covered in mud, so it wasn’t much of a leap to guess they meant someone was missing on the hills. Tony had Mountain Rescue on the phone while they were still getting their breath back. Vicky could feel herself tensing up, the way she did, now, at any mention of emergency services.

  She’s thirteen, they said. Her name’s Becky. We only lost sight of her for a moment and then she vanished. We’ve looked everywhere.

  Tony told them Mountain Rescue were asking for locations, and they didn’t seem to have a clue. They’d been trying to get to Black Bull Rocks, they told him.

  Vicky was sitting near the bar, with Graham. Black Bull Rocks was at the far eastern end of the ridge, above the visitor centre where Vicky and Graham worked. Graham caught her eye. In this weather? they were both thinking. At this time of year?

  Some of the people who cam
e here had no idea what they were doing on the hills. Vicky dealt with a fair number of them at the visitor centre: people who didn’t know how to read a map, or think to check the weather forecast. People who assumed there would be a mobile-phone signal when they got lost. At least if they called in to the centre there was a chance to set them straight. It was the ones who marched straight past they had to worry about. And she did worry, often.

  Tony held the phone away from his ear and said Mountain Rescue were asking for a description, and the parents looked stumped for a minute.

  She’s about this tall, the father said, holding his hand just beneath his chin. Dark-blonde hair, down to her shoulders. No glasses. She looks older than thirteen. She’s wearing a white hooded top and a navy-blue body-warmer. Black jeans and canvas shoes.

  Canvas shoes.

  The mother wasn’t saying anything much. She looked lost. She looked like someone who had just stood next to a loud noise and was waiting for her hearing to come back.