When eleven-year-old Emily is abducted in broad daylight on her way home from school, Detective Inspector Ben Jordan is handed the case. Fresh out of rehab, and with his career and marriage in tatters, he has 24 hours to find Emily before she is killed -- or worse. His opponents are cruel and heartless; his team includes a Bible-quoting DI with an agenda of his own. The odds are impossible. But Jordan has help. Emily won't go down without a fight.
Emily Carter cycled home from school on her pink bicycle, the satchel on her back heavy with her school books, black headphones covering her ears. She hummed along with Britney Spears playing on her Walkman. It was Friday December 17. The thought of Christmas made her fingers tingle. And on January 17 she’d have her twelfth birthday!
Christmas this year was going to be special. Her parents had promised her a new phone with a camera, and she knew her mother would buy her a book — and there was always a surprise. The bicycle was last year’s surprise, although she had guessed what it was because her daddy hadn’t bothered to adjust the brakes on her old bike when they began to squeak and groan. She had a couple of special gifts for her parents this year, a filofax for her mother, a photo album for her daddy. She smiled at the thought of how surprised and happy they’d be.
She passed by a house with an enormous German Shepherd. His head reached up to Emily’s chest. He barked at her most days from behind a closed gate, but today the gate was open, and the dog ran out, snarling and baring his teeth at her.
Emily put her brakes on and got off the bike. She propped the bike against a railing and held out a hand to the dog. “Good boy,” she said, firmly. “Don’t be nasty, be nice.”
The dog looked confused for a moment. Then he stopped barking and lay down on the pavement. Emily walked over to him and he rolled onto his back. She scratched his tummy. “Good dog. Now go on home.”
The dog got to his feet. Loping back toward his home, he met his owner emerging from the garden, a look of alarm on his face.
“I’m really sorry,” said the dog owner. “Are you okay? He didn’t attack you, did he? The gate should have been closed. I always keep it locked.”
Smiling at him, Emily got back onto her bike and resumed her journey.
As she entered the lane that led to her road, a flurry of tiny snowflakes danced around her like butterflies. She made a silent wish that it would snow properly this year and she would have her first ever white Christmas. That would make it perfect!
The lane was creepy narrow, with high white walls on each side. To get through it, she filled her mind with images of wizards on flying broomsticks…