Today's Reading

He pulled out his phone and switched on the torch. The gate looked solid, heavy-duty bolts top and bottom, with a shiny, new-looking mortice lock in the middle. He carefully slid open the bolts but it still wouldn't shift. It was locked. He also noticed a small peephole cut into the wood, with a makeshift metal flap. Somebody was keen on security. He shone the torch along the paved path that sloped towards the rear garden. A part-glazed door stood halfway along the side of the house, the number 10B crudely painted in white on the brickwork beside it. As he moved towards it, he heard the muffled throb of music and picked up the sticky, sweet smell of cannabis on the air. Again, there was no light showing inside. He decided to have a look around the back. His torch lit up a small, overgrown garden. The patio doors were closed, skimpy curtains pulled across. The fleeting shadow of somebody moved around inside and there were voices and laughter. He went back again to the side passage and rapped hard on the glass door panel. For a moment nothing happened, so he tried again. A light snapped on and through the rippled glass, he saw the flickering shape of somebody coming towards him in the corridor.

'Who's there?' A deep, male voice, foreign accent.

'Police. I'm looking for Liam Betts.'

'Nobody of that name here. Go away.' Eastern European; Russian, maybe.

'Look, we know he's in there.'

'I say go away.'

'We just want to talk to him...'

As he pulled out his warrant card, ready for the door to open, he was aware of a scuffling sound and a movement to his right in the garden. He turned, saw a face, heard the crack of gunshot, then another, felt a blow to his chest, followed by a sharp pain. He fell to his knees on the wet ground.

'Eve.' He tasted blood in his mouth. He tried again. No sound came out.


TWO

A curtain of icy rain swept over the graveyard as the funeral cortége pulled up outside the church. It was barely midday, but the sky was iron grey. Eve ducked out of sight, quickly finding shelter under the dripping branches of an ancient yew tree. It was high up on a bank in a far corner, beside some ancient-looking monuments and the thick trunk and canopy provided a good shield from any prying eyes below. On another day, she would have liked nothing better than to wander around the graves, reading the inscriptions, thinking about the people buried beneath, imagining their lives, their loves, their deaths. 'Sometimes I think you feel more at home with the dead than the living,' Jason once said, when she was particularly wrapped up in a case. 'Somebody has to speak for them, and fight for them,' she replied. What he couldn't grasp was that for her the dead were ever present.

A hasty eight days after his headline-grabbing murder, the funeral had been billed as a quiet affair, for close family and friends only. Even so, a group of bedraggled reporters and cameramen were gathered around the main entrance gate and there must have been a good thirty vehicles clogging the parking area outside and overflowing down the narrow lane, testament to the fact that Detective Sergeant Jason Scott had been well-liked. The church was on the outskirts of the village, within commuting distance of London, it felt prosperous and secure. It was a postcard-pretty, roses-around-the door sort of village; everything clipped and tidied to within an inch of its life. The sort of place where people cared what colour you painted your front door, or if you parked your car in the spot outside their house, or put your bins out on the wrong day. It would drive her mad to live somewhere like that. She liked the transience and anonymity of London, where you could be married, or divorced, or dead, for months before your neighbours found out. She had never given much thought to where Jason lived, with Tasha and their young daughter, Isabelle, but she had certainly never imagined him in such a place. It seemed so at odds with his easy-going, unfussy nature. She assumed that Tasha had chosen the location, as with most things, according to Jason. All Eve remembered was his complaining about the long daily commute to the office and how tired it made him. With a pang of sadness, it struck her how little she had known about him, or had wanted to find out.
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