When Zoe Nolan went missing in 2011, it caused the sort of minor media circus one might expect. A young, beautiful woman with the promise of a big future simply vanished after a few months at college. But her case, sad though it was, simply wasn't enough to merit dredging up six years later, let alone writing a whole book about it.
At least, that's what Joseph Knox tells himself and his fellow writer, Evelyn Mitchell. But that can't stop Mitchell from chasing down her leads and interviewing each of the people who were closest to Zoe at the time of her disappearance. Knox told his friend that no one would care without a body... only to find himself confronted with two.
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In this fascinating and immersive novel, you'll find a narrative that sucks you into a tale of a girl gone missing and leaves you asking what's real and what's just a story. True Crime Story will be included in the December/January Creepy Crate. Subscribe now to guarantee your copy!
Read on for an excerpt of True Crime Story, included in the December/January Creepy Crate!
Zoe and Kim make the move to Manchester, where they meet their three new flatmates and fatefully cross paths with Andrew and Jai.
That actually happened in our first week of living together. Zoe walked into my room, which she never normally did without knocking, closed the door, and sat down on my bed. I could see she was really shaken up about something, so I asked, “What’s wrong?” She looked at me and said, “I think someone might be stealing my clothes.”
We moved to Manchester in mid-September, 2011. We were eighteen years old, and we’d never lived away from home before, so it was great, whatever drama we’d both been through. There was something new in the air. It was six months after Zoe’s incident, her suicide attempt, and three months before she went missing. I see pictures from that time now and can’t believe how happy we all look. I can’t believe that none of us know what’s coming. We lived in Tower Block, which was a tower block—their imaginations must have exploded when they named it—on Owens Park in Fallowfield, the same one she went missing from.
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You’ll say I’m a sadist, man, but I’d actually called ahead and asked to be assigned to the tower. For whatever reason, I ended up in one of the normal buildings instead, Tree Court. The tower’s just this fuck-ugly brutalist block. Looks like it was picked up in Soviet Russia and dropped into Owens Park, like a leftover prop from the film of 1984 or something. Falling down for decades, always about to be demolished, always petitions and protests to save it. I saw it for the first time when I went on my open day, before I actually moved to Manchester. I was studying photography, and because everyone else was so obsessed with taking pretty pictures, I’d always try and find the ugliest things I could. That’s how I originally came to the tower. Destination ugliness. And I’d heard the inside was even worse, so I was dying to get through the doors.
Even before Zoe went missing, I thought there was something a little bit Heart of Darkness about the tower. A little bit Lovecraftian or Apocalypse Now. Rumor was that people used to go mad in there for some reason, I mean actually mad. They dropped out or they dis- appeared, and the fail rate was something like 40 percent, way, way above average. I didn’t live there, but whenever I visited it felt like such a novelty to me. After Zoe went missing, the press went arse over tit to suggest I’d been born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Frankly, I’d say my father stuck it in a different orifice altogether, but I suppose the point still stands.
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The tower was unlike anywhere I’d ever been before. It stuck in my mind. The thing had been up since the mid-’60s, so the walls were just cobwebbed with jail cell scratches from down through the years. You’d find initials in love hearts, carved into obscure places with dates from decades before, and find yourself thinking, I wonder if J and M 1993 are still together now.
My first response to being placed in the tower was to immediately try and get out of it. I was actually working my way through the complaints process, I was trying to get moved, when I met Zoe and decided that maybe it was worth staying. I think I was scared of all the mythology around it more than anything? Like, people said it was haunted or had this weird psychosomatic effect on occupants. The fail rate was through the roof too, which people seemed weirdly proud about for some reason.
I just remember being on edge there.
Noises, people skulking through corridors, strange men moving between rooms. There was something else, though. Like I say, I’m not a believer in “the other side,” but I have always had these feelings of intuition that are hard to explain. Like, if my mind was a compass that usually shows true north, then it would have been spinning like a tornado in the tower. There was just something wrong about it. The lift never took you where you actually wanted to go, the doors would just open on to random floors, sometimes on to pitch-black darkness. You’d constantly find yourself saying, like, “Where the hell am I?” Basically, Zoe aside, I thought the only good thing about living inside the tower was that I couldn’t see it when I looked out the window.
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The fail rate was sky-high because there were so many parties going on. There were strange noises in the night because some boys invented a drinking game called the leaning tower, where they had to do a shot on each of the eighteen floors. The lift took you to places you didn’t ask for because it dated back to Beatlemania and needed replacing. It’s true that there were floors where the lights would just cut out for days on end, but I don’t think it ever actually happened to us. We were placed on the fifteenth floor, sharing communal space with three other girls. Liu Wai, you obviously know about. Then there was Alex Wilson.
I’m not into armchair diagnosis. I think it’s cheap and limiting and judgmental and insulting, but if you’d put a gun to my head at the time, I’d have said Alex only really makes sense when you acknowledge that there’s some kind of severe mental bipolarity going on there. She was always extremely one thing or extremely another, but never what you would have necessarily called “chill.”
How to describe her…
She was kind of quite painfully thin? Sometimes she’d eat junk food all day, and sometimes she’d go, like, forty-eight hours on water alone. She was definitely pretty, but in a kind of damaged way that can attract really scummy men. By the end of the first week, she had two different boyfriends to suit whatever mood she happened to be in, which totally scandalized me. One of them, Sam, was this sweetheart who always helped her, then the other, who I only ever saw once, was this sort of dark, drunken loser who only came out at night. Like, she had a good guy and a bad guy depending on how she saw herself at the time. Real split-personality stuff.
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