Sunday 14 July 2019
‘Louise just text me,’ Alex called out to Caroline who was still upstairs getting dressed. ‘She’s organised lunch. Shall I tell her we’re coming?’
‘Sure,’ replied Caroline as she wandered downstairs to the kitchen.
‘Bit odd, don’t you think?’
‘What is?’ Caroline asked.
‘Louise organising a lunch. Not really her thing, organising,’ Alex replied.
‘You’re worried . . .’
Alex scowled. There was something about her sister’s text message that didn’t sit right with her. Aside from the fact that Louise was cautious about straying too far from her house, she had never enjoyed lunching.
‘Dinner’s more her thing,’ Alex muttered.
‘True. Maybe she wants a change.’ Caroline stood within Alex’s personal space, and noticed that for the first time in weeks, Alex didn’t take a step backwards to distance herself from her wife. Caroline wanted to believe it was because things were sorting themselves out, but knew it was more likely because Alex was distracted by Louise’s lunch invitation.
‘Do you think I should call her?’
Another small step closer to Alex. ‘If it makes you feel more comfortable.’
‘I think I should call.’
A small step closer to Alex. ‘Okay.
‘I’m going to call.’
‘Sure.’ A last step towards Alex, close enough to touch her, Caroline squeezed Alex’s arm to provide some reassurance. Alex smiled, and leaned forward to kiss Caroline. The chiming of the doorbell interrupted the moment.
‘Shit,’ Alex said.
‘I’ll get it.’ Shoulders slumped, Caroline tramped to the front door. DI Hobbs held her warrant card up beside her face. Her expression told Caroline that Hobbs was there to deliver serious information.
‘DI Jane Hobbs. I need to speak to Alex Herrison-Malone, please.’
Caroline stepped to the side, allowing Hobbs and her partner to enter the home. She ushered the detectives through to the kitchen. Hearing the footsteps, Alex disconnected the call she had been trying to make.
‘She’s not answering,’ she announced as she turned towards the footsteps.
‘Police are here, Alex,’ Caroline replied.
Hobbs stepped forward. ‘It’s your sister, Alex. Her body was discovered at the base of Whitetop Cliff a couple of hours ago.’
‘That can’t be true. She text messaged me a few minutes ago,’ Alex scoffed. She fiddled with her phone, displayed the message, and handed the phone to Hobbs. ‘See.’
Hobbs read the message, and noted the time stamp. ‘I’m sorry. It’s her. The ID on the body is your sister’s. I need you to come with me to formally identify the body.’
* * * * *
It was a matter of time before the police connected him with Louise’s death. He was under no illusion that they would be coming for him. He was determined, however, to have his fun with Alex before they got to him. He’d had a long time in prison to plan down to the smallest detail what he’d do to Louise and Alex, but now he had a new one to consider. He’d make Alex suffer first by forcing her to watch what he’d do to Caroline.
Duncan huddled against the chill in the dingy hotel room. He sat on the bed writing notes in a battered black leather covered journal, explaining every action he’d taken since being released from prison. It was important to him that every detail, every move he made, every thought that had entered his mind be written down to explain the choices he’d made in exacting revenge on his ex-wife and her interfering sister. He had to accept his guilt in all of this, but they too would have to accept their parts in the destruction of his life.
A renewed sense of joy had entered his life when he saw that Alex had a partner, a wife of all people. When he laid eyes on Caroline, he knew he’d found a way to hurt Alex more than simply taking her sister away.
‘Might even keep you alive,’ Duncan muttered as he wrote. ‘But I’ll let you watch when I rip her apart.’
Police siren in the distance snatched Duncan’s attention from his journaling.
‘Oh, Alex, how I wanted to see your face when they told you they’d found Louise.’
* * * * *
‘You don’t think she was thrown from the clifftop?’ Alex already knew by the state of Louise’s body that she hadn’t been thrown from Whitetop, rather she’d been dumped at the bottom. Hobbs shook her head.
‘Not enough . . . damage,’ she replied. ‘Sorry to describe it – her – like that.’
‘Any idea who did it?’ Caroline instantly regretted asking the question. They all knew who had perpetrated the crime.
‘Duncan,’ Hobbs and Alex replied in unison.
‘We’ve got officers out looking for him,’ Hobbs continued. ‘Do you know of any places where he might hide out?’
‘No,’ Alex answered.
Hobbs pointed to the chairs in front of her desk, indicating that she wanted Alex and Caroline to sit down. She waited for the two women to get comfortable.
‘You’re not going to like this.’
‘There’s little about today that I do like, so you may as well add to it,’ Alex declared.
Hobbs tapped her fingers on the desk as she spoke. ‘I want the two of you in protective custody.’
‘I couldn’t agree more.’
Caroline and Hobbs wore the same expression of disbelief at Alex’s quick agreement to the detective’s request.
‘Not a hotel though. Keep us here. He’s not going to risk coming into a police station to get to us.’
Hobbs nodded. ‘I like your thinking.’
Alex and Caroline sat in silence in the office as DI Hobbs instructed her officers. She returned to her office flanked by two armed response officers.
‘Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum here will accompany you back to your house to pick up a change of clothes and any essentials you might need. You will follow their every instruction to the letter, and you’ll get back here as quickly as you can.’
Caroline looked worried. ‘You’re only sending two officers with us?’
‘No,’ Hobbs replied, ‘their armed mates will be backing them up, but that doesn’t mean you can linger any longer than necessary. Get in, get your stuff, and get back out again. No risks.’
‘No risks,’ Alex repeated.
‘Give me your word,’ Hobbs demanded.
Alex smirked. ‘You have my word.’
. . . To be continued . . .