Chapter Two:

"Once is by Accident, Twice is by Co-incidence."

Hillside A few days later Early morning

The small town of Hillside was a quaint little town with a reasonable population of varying cultures and beliefs. It was set deep into the English countryside surrounded by rolling hills and lush woodland. It was once a bustling mining town with coal being its biggest employ until twenty years ago when the mines closed with hardly any notice, those in charge blamed it on the economy at the time however the local residents believed it was mostly due to the strange and unusual circumstances that took place in the mines, with men disappearing without a trace and the mines became surrounded in mystery and superstition which lead to their closure and for nature to slowly reclaim them.

It was such tales and intrigue that began to draw in tourists who hoped to catch photographic evidence of ghosts that supposedly stalked the old desolate mining shafts that had been woven into the vast landscape. The new tourist trade had transformed the small mining hamlet into a bustling town that many old and new generations called home. In fact, it was such one individual, a young man of twenty-five years of age called home after he had moved there seven years ago at the tender age of eighteen. Marcus Christopher O'Connor stepped out of the front door of the aged building that he called home and into the main street which was very quiet with very few people around, the only sounds were coming from the chirping of birds and the rustling of leaves on the trees. Occasionally the silence was disturbed by a car or lorry travelling on their way to work.

Marcus was a tall individual and sported an athletic build, he had unruly short brunette hair and green eyes. Marcus originally came from the small town of Vale which was two to three hundred miles north-east of Hillside, but after several unforeseen and tragic circumstances that involved his family, Marcus decided to leave Vale once the sale of his family home had gone through and arrived in Hillside shortly afterwards where he purchased a one-bedroom apartment and instantly set out looking for work. It was by happen-stance that the proprietor of the café told him that Jackson Everson was looking for help at the local Garage and within that same day Marcus had managed to land himself a job as the old man's apprentice.

And from then onwards, Marcus had never looked back. Every morning he would rise just shortly after eight and head towards the same little café on the corner fifteen minutes from his residence where he would pick up coffee and lunch before heading onto the Garage where old Jack would be tinkering on his old Nineteen Sixty-six Ford Mustang GT that he hoped to get running again one day. Marcus crossed the road and hopped up onto the pavement, many of the businesses he passed had either just opened or were just opening, a couple like the Bakery store and the Newsagents had been open for a good two to three hours in order to accommodate those partaking in the early morning commute to work.

The buildings themselves were old and built from Victorian red brick with large glass windows which advertised the wares inside, many of them from the local growers and producers. The large awnings, a few of which were currently tucked back against the buildings, were brightly coloured and easily reflected the people living in Hillside; they were easy-going, friendly, cheerful and exceedingly polite. However there was an undercurrent of suspicion and tragedy which surrounded the town, the locals would watch newcomers whether they were passing through or moving to the area before allowing themselves to relax. Marcus had been subjected to the suspicion and paranoia back when he first arrived in Hillside seven years ago, he had asked Jack about it once and the old mechanic had simply told him that it was due to some kids disappearing back in the seventies and that some of the older generations had long memories.

Marcus remembered that it had lasted for a few short weeks but it quickly got around the neighbourhood that he was pretty nifty at fixing things after he came to the aid of his elderly next door neighbour Mrs Wesley when her washing machine began leaking all over her kitchen floor, it wasn't long after that, that the locals began to relax and accept him as one of their own. After all it would not be the first time he had been subjected to suspicion and rumour, but those memories were best left in the past.

Marcus quickly crossed the street and hopped up onto the opposite pavement and made his way to his favourite Cafe whose proprietor also ran a Bed and Breakfast out of the same building. He pushed open the door and couldn't help the small smile that appeared on his lips at the tinkling sound of the little bell above the door. Marcus dipped his head in acknowledgement to the usual patrons as he made his way up to the serving counter which displayed an assortment of many and wonderful delicacies Marie Thompson, the owner of the Coffee House, made so they could be sold to the many customers that visited the Cafe.

"Good Morning." Marcus called out to the young man behind the counter.

"Mornin'." Jaycee Williams responded as he stepped away from his task of sorting and refilling the coffee packs on the shelves. Jaycee was tall with a slim build, one would almost call him gangly in stature, he had brown eyes and blonde curly hair which curled around the nape of his neck. Jaycee had been one of the few who had made friends with Marcus within the first week of the latter arriving in Hillside, the pair of them quickly became the best of friends and often spent every Friday night with their collection of associates in one of the local pubs until either they couldn't see straight and on the verge of passing out or didn't leave until closing time.

"You're pushing it a little aren't you?" Jaycee inquired as he glanced at the clock, it was currently twenty-five to nine and he knew that it would take Marcus a good fifteen to twenty minutes to get there on foot from the café.

"A little, it'll be fine, Jack's usually got his head buried in the engine of that Mustang he's tryin' to restore when I arrive." The young Mechanic responded as he pulled his mobile phone out of the back pocket of his jeans to check it for any messages or calls. He saw a message from Jack stating that he wanted a chicken, sweetcorn and mayonnaise sandwich on brown not white bread. Marcus shook his head in amusement as he pocketed the device before he turned his attention to the other person behind the counter who was just beginning to prepare his sandwich order now that the initial morning rush had died down.

"Terry, better change Jack's order, he wants chicken, sweetcorn and mayonnaise on brown bread, old man wants to be different today, also better chuck in a millionaire shortbread too to sweeten him up since I'm gonna be late anyway." Marcus told him.

"Got it." Terrance Jackson responded as he placed the chilled bowls of tuna and cucumber back to the refrigerated display cabinet and reached for the chicken and sweetcorn ones instead. Terrance or Terry as he sometimes liked to go by was a short individual standing at the height of five foot four inches with short, swept back and gelled relentlessly into place, brunette hair and brown eyes. Terrance was well known by his peers and some of the locals to be a little eccentric but that was mainly due to the fact that he was an avid Science Fiction fan and loved anything related to the Supernatural. Marcus likened him to a walking encyclopedia when it came to certain topic such as Vampires, Werewolves or the capabilities of a Starships engines from one of his favourite Sci-fi series.

"The old fart hasn't changed his mind about his coffee has he?" Jaycee inquired as he finished preparing the coffee Marcus always seemed to favour every time he came in. The Barista picked the cloth he always used and wiped the spout down before he reached for another cardboard cup, he hesitated for a brief moment as he waited for the mechanic's response.

"Nope just changed his choice of sandwich today." Marcus told him as he quickly double checked his phone just to make sure.

"Did you hear about the kids that went missin' a few days ago?" Jaycee inquired as he removed the second coffee cup from the espresso machine and proceeded to clip the plastic lids onto the cardboard cups filled with black and white coffee. The curly haired man then placed them on the counter where a cup holder awaited them.

"The police still haven't found any trace of them?" Marcus asked in return as he lifted each cup and slid them into place in the cup holder.

Jaycee leant on the counter and leaned forward almost conspiratorially "Nah, but rumour has it that they've had ta call in outside help."

Marcus frowned with scepticism clearly written upon his face as he regarded the Barista, he knew that anything Jaycee said in that tone was to be taken lightly as he had the tendency to exaggerate just a little "I very much doubt it, the kids are probably just lying low waiting for things to blow over especially with Mr Jameson."

The man was a formidable person and not one to be trifled with as he had served twenty odd years in the Army before he retired to settle down properly to have children with his wife. The youngest of their boys Jason had arrived late in their lives and was very much different from his vastly older siblings, it was quite unlike him to outright disobey his father by venturing to the old derelict school, he had seen the old man raise his voice by a single octave and his young son quickly fell into line. No he suspected that the ringleader was none other than Jason Swanbeck, the local trouble maker, the teenager who enjoyed trespassing on sites and nearly getting caught by the police. Some suspected that it was nothing more than a game to Jason and a headache for his poor mother who had five other children to worry about.

Jaycee pushed himself upright and away from the counter "Yea well if I were them I'd get my ass back home and face the music unless they've been abducted by aliens!"

Marcus snorted in amusement as he folded his arms across his chest "Are you being serious? Aliens!?"

"It can happen." Terrance piped up from where he was stood a little further down preparing Marcus' order of sandwiches "Mr Townsend swears that he was abducted once, taken to a mother-ship and everything."

"You are aware Mr Townsend likes to tell tall tales don't you, from what I heard he spent most of the sixties and seventies stoned out of his face, so it's probably had some neurological affect." Marcus told them as he reached into his back pocket for his wallet and opened it, he fished out a slightly crumpled ten pound note and handed it to Jaycee who quickly rung up his order before he handed back his change which he stuffed into one of his front pockets "you're better off sticking to those forums you love so much Terry at least they're partly truthful."

"Wait a sec, so you're sayin' Vampires could be real but not aliens, how is that right?" Terry asked as he deposited the two sandwich bags down in front of the mechanic.

Marcus tucked the sandwich bag under his arm and picked up the cup holder with the other, he grinned at Terrance before his gaze trailed up to the clock on the wall above their heads, the smile slipped from his lips "Another debate for another time Terry, see you guys later."

"Take it we're still on for a few rounds at O'Rourke's tomorrow night?" Jaycee inquired as he glanced past Marcus when he heard the bell above the front door ring with a new customer stepping inside the café.

"Yea absolutely." Marcus responded as he spun round hastily ready to race for the door, he was already late by a few minutes and by the time he reached the Garage he was employed at he would be a further ten minutes late. However, in his haste, Marcus didn't look where he was going and walked straight into the person who had entered the little café, the sandwich bag which had been tucked under his arm slipped loose and dropped to the floor by his feet.

"I'm Sorry." The woman said.

"It's fine." Marcus said as he knelt to retrieve it, unknowingly at the same time the person he had walked into had also done the same. The pair reached for the item which had been dropped and it wasn't until then that Marcus finally met the woman's gaze. He felt his heart flutter at the young beautiful woman clearly around his age knelt in front of him, he found himself entranced by the sun kissed face which was framed by long dark brown hair that fell around her arms and back and ended in loose curls. But what intrigued him the most was the intensity of her eyes, they were deepest blue almost like the Mediterranean Sea, a colour that was clearly almost unnatural.

"Here." The woman said, a small smile appearing upon her lips as she handed Marcus the sandwich bag.

Utterly speechless, Marcus simply took the item from her as they stood. Their gazes lingered for a few brief moments before the woman stepped past him and made her way toward the counter. Marcus peered over his shoulder, his mind racing, and his belly was doing flip flops as a memory rushed to the forefront of his mind of a young girl with long dark brown hair and the brightest blue eyes he had ever seen. The young mechanic glanced over his shoulder to where the strange newcomer was stood, there was something familiar about her and as much as he wanted to go over to her and ask a few questions about her, one look at the clock above the chalk boards hosting the days specials made the decision for him.

Stowing the innumerable questions he wanted to ask (despite the small possibility she might not even be the same person) to the back of his mind, Marcus swiftly left the café and out onto the now busy street unaware of the pair of unnaturally blue eyes watching him. The young mechanic quickly crossed the street and hopped up onto the opposite path, he slipped down the small alleyway he always used as a shortcut to get to work. Hillside, Marcus noted, was one of those picturesque towns with clean streets, friendly people and beautifully prepared planter boxes full of flowers of every colour and variety. But it was also a victim to uncouth teenagers who clearly had nothing better to do with their time, graffiti sprawled out and across wooden fence panels whilst litter and fly tipping spoiled the walkways. The young mechanic knew the problem had been reported many times to the local council as he had heard old man George Benson complain about it to his peers in the pub, however despite everyone's best efforts to solve the issue, it kept coming back much to the resident's dismay.

As Marcus continued his journey down the alleyway, he couldn't help but allow his thoughts to stray back to the woman he had bumped into earlier, deep down he felt that he knew her from somewhere but he just couldn't place where. Marcus could recall that the only person who had blue eyes as intense as the ones he had just seen was a girl he had known from his childhood. Sophie Cooper had been his closest friend from the tender age of five years old when they had first met in Primary school, he remembered how she had been reclusive and somewhat temperamental which had alienated her from the other children their age, however instead of chasing him away like all the others, she had somehow drawn him in and he knew that it had to be the colour of her eyes as they had seemed otherworldly. They had been the brightest blue he had ever seen and to meet another individual nearly almost thirteen years to the day he had last seen Sophie couldn't be a coincidence.

Marcus' journey along the alleyway finally brought him out onto the street opposite the Garage. The road was fairly quiet compared to the main arterial route through Hillside which he knew would be busy with commuters heading to work and parents taking their children to school. The young mechanic crossed the road and made his way across the Garage's fairly quiet forecourt and into the small building which housed the reception area, kitchenette and a couple of unisex toilets. Marcus couldn't help but frown at the lack of his boss in the reception area as he headed to the kitchenette to store the food and set down the coffee cups, he placed the sandwiches in the refrigerator then traipsed out toward the back where Jack kept the old Mustang he was working on.

The old man kept the car in a separate workshop around the back of the Garage which had been extended to accommodate the increase in customers. As Marcus drew closer to the workshop he could hear voices. More than a little curious as to who Jack could be talking to, Marcus popped his head around the doorway, Immediately he recognised old man Jack Evertson leant against the side of the Mustang with his arms folded across his chest. The older mechanic was a man of middling stature with short grey hair (well what was left of it anyway) and blue-grey eyes. Jack had once been a military man serving as a Warrant Officer or Regimental Sergeant Major in the army for twenty odd years before he decided he needed a slower pace in life. It was after he retired from the armed forces that he turned his attention to a trade he knew well; the repair and servicing of cars which he use to do before he joined the Military.

However it was the other individual in the room who Marcus didn't recognise. The male appeared to be in his late forties to early fifties with brunette hair which was streaked with grey and had been swept backwards away from his face. The most surprising thing about this newcomer was the way he dressed; he was currently clothed in dark grey trousers, a tan blazer, a burnt umber jumper that sat over a black and white chequered shirt. His attire spoke of someone quite wealthy and simply stood out in Jack's dusty and outdated workshop. Deciding that the conversation was probably not for his ears, Marcus turned to head the other way when he heard his name being called. The young mechanic stepped into the old workshop which smelt strongly of oil, sweat, dust and exhaust fumes. Immediately Marcus felt the newcomer's calculating gaze fall upon him as he approached the pair.

"Good mornin' Son." Jack said offering him one of his usual heart warming smiles as his blue-grey eyes fell upon him.

"Mornin' Jack." Marcus responded as he stood to the right of his boss and folded his arms across his chest.

"Marcus I'd like ya to meet an old friend of mine .. Michael Valentine, he and his niece are here to help find those missin' kids." Jack told him.

The newcomer – Michael Valentine held out of his hands for Marcus to take "Pleasure to meet you Marcus."

The young mechanic took the hand offered to him and shook it "And you Mr Valentine, I take it you're some kind of private investigator?"

A small smile made graced Michael's lips "You could say that."

There was something in the way he said that which immediately aroused Marcus' suspicions that there was a lot more going on than he initially thought. After all why would the police look to 'outside' help as this wasn't a manhunt, it was just four boys who had gone missing after they had stepped into the old Boarding school for a bit of fun and simply hadn't returned. There was also the way the man was dressed, he seemed more at home in a Gentleman's club than some small town like Hillside. Also who was this niece Jack spoke of? The only other newcomer Marcus had run into was the young woman in the coffee shop earlier.

"How is that niece of yours?" Jack inquired.

"She is fine." Came a woman's voice from the doorway.

Marcus glanced over and was immediately surprised to see the woman he had quite literally bumped into earlier, she was currently leaning against the door frame with her arms folded across her chest.

"Raine my lovely how have you been?" Jack inquired with a broad smile on his face.

The young woman – Raine pushed herself up off the door frame and made her way over to the older mechanic and gave him a hug.

"I'm fine Jack." She replied as she let go of the older mechanic and turned to Marcus "Hello again."

"Hi." The young mechanic responded.

Michael glanced between the pair with intrigue clearly written on his face "I take it you've both met already?"

Marcus found himself unable to peel his gaze away from the young woman stood on Jack's other side "You could say that." He watched as a small smile appeared upon her lips and those unnaturally blue eyes seemed to visibly brighten. Suddenly Marcus had so many questions he wanted to ask her, but he simply didn't know where to start or whether he would be making a fool of himself if he dis ask. He knew there was every chance that she might not even be the same woman he was hoping she would be; after all she didn't share the same name as his once best friend, although it had been know for people to change their names so there could still be a possibility.

However it seemed he would not get that chance as someone's mobile phone beeped, Raine reached into her jeans pocket and pulled out her phone. Marcus watched as a brief look of concentration appeared upon her face as she read whatever it was on the screen.

"Well?" Michael inquired of his niece.

Raine glanced up from her phone, her gaze briefly met Marcus' before it focused upon her uncle "They still haven't found much pertaining to the case, we might have to go and do some research of our own anyway."

"Well then we best get started, it's nice to see you again Jack hopefully it won't be too long next time." Michael told his old friend as he gently gripped Jack's upper arm.

"Make sure it isn't and if yeh still in town by Friday, drop by O'Rourke's so we can have a proper chin waggle." The older mechanic replied.

"Come on Jack, we both know Mike doesn't do pubs." Raine said as she looped her arms around him for a hug which he readily returned "but I'll see what I can do." She threw a sly smile in her uncle's direction only to receive a glare in return.

Jack grinned at her whilst ignoring the look Michael was giving him "I'm sure you will lass."

Michael rolled his eyes at their attempt to conspire against him "No promises." Michael turned to Marcus and extended his right hand towards him "it's been a pleasure meeting you again Marcus."

And there it was again, that same smile as before, as if this Raine character knew something he didn't and wasn't about to let him in on whatever secret she was hiding "You too Mr Valentine." The young mechanic shook the older man's hand before it was withdrawn.

"Well it's been a pleasure bumping into you again Marcus, maybe our paths will cross again whilst we're here." Raine said as she offered her right hand for a handshake which Marcus readily reciprocated.

"And you too Raine." The young mechanic responded as he reluctantly released her hand.

"Well come on old man, time a wasting." Raine said as she swept past Marcus and headed towards the doorway, she flashed one last smile in the young mechanic's direction before she disappeared entirely.

"Incorrigible brat." Michael muttered under his breath "well I best go after her or she'll make me walk, I'll see about Friday though as I said earlier no promises."

"Go on git or she will leave you behind." Jack said as he playfully shoved his old friend towards the doorway. Michael shook his head in amusement as he smoothed down his jacket and righted the glasses sat on his nose before he too left leaving Marcus and Jack in the old workshop.

Silence descended upon the pair as they contemplated their two unusual visitors before they headed out of the little workshop and into the main Garage, although on the way through Jack quickly popped into the small kitchenette to grab his coffee. Marcus flicked the light switches on before he began unlatching the padlocks on the two metal doors indicating the start of their working day, so many questions were still buzzing around his head and he still felt no closer to find the answers he was after.