Published by Hodder Children's Books
ISBN 0-340-85400-6

As she sprinted along the empty beach, Biddy knew it wouldn't be long before Gil caught up with her. That was the worst thing about having an older sister. Gil had longer legs and could run much faster; so whenever they raced — and that wasn't often, because Gil hardly ever would — Biddy always lost. This time, though, she was determined to outwit her sister, and when she saw Gil jump the second of the groynes and come pounding after her she veered inland towards the sand-dunes. The dunes were great; Biddy could lay a false trail of footprints in the soft sand then hide behind a tussock of grass, and when Gil started looking for her she'd jump out and give her the fright of her life.
            In her imagination Biddy was riding a horse, and she snorted and whinnied—quite convincingly, she thought—as she made her way among the dunes, looking for a good place to hide. The wind had dropped and it was very quiet, and when she looked up she realised that she must have run a long way along the beach. She looked around. There was a belt of stunted and scrubby pine trees behind the dunes, then the road, then more trees, and… something else.
            Curious, Biddy peered harder, and saw that beyond the second line of trees was an old church with a wall around it. Something about it seemed wrong somehow, and that puzzled her until, after a few moments, she realised what it was. The church was a ruin. The roof had fallen in, the squat, square tower gaped open to the blue sky, and what had once been a neatly-tended churchyard was now a thicket of brambles and couch-grass. A few old, mossy gravestones poked up from the tangle here and there, but the place had an air of desolation that drove all notions of horses and hiding from Biddy's mind.
            She walked towards the road. She wouldn't cross over—she wasn't allowed to cross roads on her own and it was one of the few orders she didn't argue with—but if she went a bit further along on this side she'd get a much better view of the ruin. Then, as the scrubby trees thinned out, she saw the second church.
            It stood behind the ruin, separated from it by a stone wall, and Biddy's eyes widened in astonishment as she looked harder. The two churches were absolutely identical. The only difference between them was that the second church still had its roof and tower intact, and the churchyard wasn't a tangled wilderness but neat and tended and tidy. Weird, Biddy thought. Where had Gil got to? She'd love this.
            She  turned to call out to her sister and urge her to hurry up and see the strange thing for herself. And came face to face with a boy.
            Biddy yelped in shock and almost fell over as she jumped back a pace. 'Where did you come from?'
            The boy was a year or two older than her, and the most striking thing about him was the colour of his hair. It was red—fiery red, sunset-red—and it was the first time Biddy had ever encountered anyone with hair so like her own and Gil's. The sisters suffered, as they saw it, from the same problem. At school they were both saddled with the nickname of 'Carrots'. Biddy shrugged it off, but Gil hated it. That was why she had begged Mum to let her have it cut so short. When she got to be Gil's age, Biddy thought, she'd probably feel the same; and as no one else in the family had hair like theirs it really didn't seem fair. But now she was confronted by a complete stranger who was another Carrots, and despite the start he'd given her, she felt a wave of fellow feeling.
            She added, 'Sorry; I didn't mean to yell. You made me jump, that's all.'
            The boy didn't answer but only stood staring at her. He was very thin, she noticed, and very pale, too. No freckles like she and Gil had, and his skin looked as if he spent most of his time shut away from the light.
            Trying again, Biddy asked, 'Are you from the village? Naffam, or whatever it's called?'
            'What if we are?' The boy's voice snapped out so suddenly that it startled her. 'That's our business, not yours.' He had a thick accent that was hard to understand, but the fierce contempt in his tone was clear enough, and Biddy bristled.
            'I only asked!' She glowered at him. 'Anyway, what do you mean, our business? I can only see one of you!'
            The boy glanced over his shoulder towards the dunes, and to Biddy's surprise a girl emerged from behind a tall tussock of grass. She was younger than the boy; she had red hair, too, and she was wearing a shapeless top and a baggy skirt that was much too long for her. Her feet were bare and sandy, and Biddy couldn't help noticing that her toenails needed cutting. The girl stood beside the boy and took hold of his hand, staring uneasily at Biddy. Her eyes were very bright blue but somehow very sad, and instinctively Biddy felt sorry for her.
            She said, 'Hi,' hoping the girl would be more friendly than the boy was. 'This beach is great, isn't it? I was being a horse. What are you two doing here?'
            The girl didn't return her smile. 'We're waiting,' she said in a soft, accented voice. 'We always come here, me and my brother. We always come. To wait.'
            Biddy frowned. 'Who for?'
            'Our father. He'll be coming home by sea, so we wait here every evening and look for his ship.'
            'Where’s he coming home from?' Biddy asked.
            The girl didn’t answer, but her blue eyes suddenly lit up in a strange, almost manic way. 'He must come soon,’ she said passionately. 'He must.'
            Biddy began to feel uneasy. The girl’s tone was weird, and that look in her eyes... She took a step back towards the beach. 'Look, I’d better go. My sister'll be wondering where I am...'
            The boy laughed. It was an extraordinary laugh, sharp and cruel, and as Biddy's eyes widened he said coldly, 'Yes, go. Go on, go away. It's too late for us. Go away, before it's too late for you as well.'
            His tone and his words really frightened Biddy, and she stumbled back three more paces. 'OK, OK, I'm going! There's no need to be—' And she stopped as she saw that his expression had abruptly changed and he was looking past her to a spot behind her left shoulder.
            Biddy spun round. The sun was beginning to set, and the last rays slanted across the tangle of shrubbery around the old church, casting long shadows. Just for a moment one of those shadows seemed to move.
            The boy hissed at her, softly but savagely, 'Before it's too late!' Biddy's heart jumped under her ribs and she turned back again—
            The boy and girl had vanished.
            Behind her, on the other side of the narrow lane, something rustled in the brambles...