DCI Cameron Doyle
Justice. I’ve spent a thirty-year career being paid to uphold it. I’ve had successes, sure. I’ve put no fewer than twenty-six killers behind bars, as well as numerous other lowlifes who’ve committed serious crimes. But almost to a man and woman, the people I sent down were either poor, desperate or, in some cases, just downright stupid.
The truly successful criminals, the ones with the money and the power, they’ve always been a far harder proposition. They’ve got the resources to fend you off time and time again. Eventually your bosses tire of the fight and decide to leave them in search of easier targets. That’s how it works, especially when success in police work is all based on performance targets.
But that’s not how I work. Call me old-fashioned, but I never give up. I’m patient. I’m methodical. And in the end, I get there. However long it takes.
And I’m here now. Ready to close the curtain on a case that’s been troubling me for a long, long time. I’ve got three murder suspects in this police station, and a trail of dead bodies. I need to hear from them what happened in the twenty-four hours leading up to their arrests. I want to let them tell it their way, with as little interruption as possible. Give them the rope to hang themselves.
Because right now, I think they’re all lying.
A word to the wise. Appreciate every waking second of your life. Breathe in the fresh air. Smell the roses. Don’t put off things that’ll make you happy. Do the stuff on your bucket list. Now. Don’t waste your time with worry. Pretty much everything you’ve ever worried about never happened.
Jesus, live. Because let me tell you this. Even if you think your life’s a long line of disappointments, it can always get worse. Much, much worse. And it can all happen in an instant. Like it did that night.
It was just short of 1 a.m. when I got out of the car with a yawn and walked to the front door of the cottage. The rain had stopped but a chill November wind still blew hard across the fields. A light was on in the living room though I knew Kate wouldn’t still be up. She was an early bird. It was rare that she ever lasted past 11, especially now she was pregnant. She might be only a couple of months gone, but she’d suffered a lot from morning sickness, which was one of the reasons we’d returned home to England for a few months, so we could get access to the best healthcare.
I was in a good mood as I went inside. I remember that. Thinking that I’d had a good evening in London, that life was going well. That I had a lot to look forward to. I locked the door behind me and took off my shoes, cutting the light and using the dying embers from the open fire to guide me as I crept through the living room, trying not to make a noise. Kate was a light sleeper, and she wouldn’t take kindly to being woken. I hadn’t given her a time I’d be back from London – we don’t have the kind of relationship where we have to be in each other’s pockets – but I knew this was on the late side, so I took the stairs one at a time with exaggerated slowness, trying in vain to stop them creaking and whining beneath my feet. That was the problem with character cottages. They never shut up.
Our bedroom door was open a foot and I tiptoed past it into the bathroom. I washed my face and cleaned my
teeth, and even stopped for a few moments to smile at my reflection in the mirror. ‘We’ve come a long way, you and me,’ I whispered. Which was true. We had. Thirty-six years. Some big ups, some even bigger downs. And then finally, when all looked lost, the biggest up of them all. Falling in love, against the odds, and starting a whole new life in the sunshine.
I took off my clothes in the bathroom, switched off the light and slipped into our bedroom, gently closing the door behind me and listening, just to be on the safe side, for the telltale sound of Kate’s breathing as she slept.
Except I couldn’t hear it.
The window frame was rattling a little from the wind and I wondered if that was obscuring the noise, because she was definitely in bed. I could see her in the darkness. She was almost completely covered by the duvet, though I could make out the bulge of her figure under it, her head poking out the top.
But she wasn’t moving. At all. Not even when one of the floorboards creaked loudly under my bare foot. This was a result. She was sleeping heavily for once.
Gently I pulled up my side of the duvet and lay down in the bed, stifling a yawn, feeling that warm pleasure at the prospect of sleep. And felt it immediately. A cold, clammy wetness on my arm. Frowning, I slid my hand across the sheet. It was soaking, yet Kate still wasn’t moving. Something was wrong.
I lifted my hand from under the duvet, saw the darkness of the stain on my palm, and cried out. ‘Oh Jesus.’
Instinctively I grabbed Kate’s shoulder, which was when I realised she was wearing a coat.
‘Kate? Kate?’ I shook her. Nothing.
Panicking, I reached over and switched on the light, blinking against the sudden brightness, and yanked back the covers.
She was lying on her front, fully clothed, her head turned sideways towards me, pale blue eyes staring blankly into space.
I’d never seen a corpse before, but straight away I knew the woman in front of me was dead.
But the thing was, it wasn’t Kate.