In the chilling new crime novel from award-winning author Jane Casey, Detective Maeve Kerrigan and the murder squad must navigate a web of lies to discover the truth…
A murder without a body
Eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home one day to find the house covered in blood and Kate, her mother, gone. There may not be a body, but everything else points to murder.
A girl too scared to talk
Maeve Kerrigan is young, ambitious and determined to prove she’s up to her new role as detective sergeant. She suspects Chloe is holding something back, but best friend Bethany Norris won’t let Maeve get close. What exactly is Bethany protecting Chloe from?
A detective with everything to prove
As the team dig deeper into the residents of Valerian Road, no one is above suspicion. All Maeve needs is one person to talk, but that’s not going to happen. Because even in a case of murder, some secrets are too terrible to share…
The car had stopped outside her house, she realised, the engine still running.
‘You can get out here. I won’t make you run across the road in this weather.’
‘OK. Thanks.’ She reached down to push the seatbelt’s release button but he got there first. ‘Thanks,’ she said again.
‘No problem.’ He was frowning at her. ‘Chloe, love, are you all right? You look a bit—’
‘I’m fine.’ She pulled on the door handle and it didn’t open and her heart rate went spiralling up like a bird spinning through clear air but he reached across her and gave it a swift shove and it came open. His arm brushed against her chest as he drew it back, but that was just an accident, the contact brief.
‘Needs a firm hand.’
‘Oh,’ Chloe whispered. Her ears were hot, her pulse thudding so hard that she could barely hear him, but he was still talking. She got out of the car without waiting for him to stop, slamming the door on him. She turned to scurry up the path, glancing up at the house to see Misty in the window of the front bedroom, her paws braced on the glass, miaowing with all her might. The horn blared behind Chloe twice, very loud. It made her jump but she didn’t look back, her whole being focused on her need to go inside without saying anything else, or crying, one two three four five six seven at the front door eight nine ten eleven keys out twelve thirteen the right key in the lock and the door was opening and she almost fell through it into the narrow, long hallway but she got it shut behind her in the same moment and that was it, she was alone except for Misty, and she could collapse or scream or crawl into a corner and shake or chew her nails until they bled again or any of the things she’d been holding back for days now.
Misty hadn’t come down the stairs yet, she registered, and as if in response a thunder of scratching – sharp-clawed paws on wood – echoed through the still, silent house. The cat was shut in, then. Mum had shut her in. Chloe put her keys on the hall table. She should let the cat out.
Unless the cat wasn’t supposed to be out.
Chloe started towards the stairs.
There was a mark on the wall. A big one. A smear, with four lines running through it like tracks. Chloe’s eyes tracked from the smear to the ground, to the droplets that ran down the wall and trickled over the skirting board and puddled on the ground. It was dark, whatever it was. Dirty.
Something that would make her mother furious.
Maybe that was why the cat was shut in, Chloe thought.
Maybe that was it. Misty had made a mess. She started up the stairs, one hand resting lightly on the banisters, and it felt wrong, it was rough, as if something had dried on it, some more of the same dirt. Chloe looked down at it, at the stairs, and then at the hall below, and her legs were still carrying her up but her brain was working, trying to make sense of what she saw and what she felt and what she smelled and the carpet, the carpet was ruined in the hall upstairs, it was dirty and soaked and smeared and the pictures were all crooked.
Behind the closed door Misty set to work, digging her claws under the wood, splintering it as she scraped.
Let her out.
What had happened? The bathroom door was open but it was too dark in there, darker than it should have been. The whole house was dark. There was no reason to look, Chloe told herself.
She didn’t want to look.
. . . scratch scratch scratch . . .
Let her out.
Because if not, she’d damage the door.
Let her out.
What . . .
Let her out, or there’d be trouble.
Chloe reached the door, and hesitated. She put out her hand to the handle, touching it with her fingertips. Behind the door the cat howled, outraged. She scratched again and the vibrations hummed across Chloe’s skin.
Let her out.
She turned the handle and pushed the door, and a grey paw slid through the gap, dragging at it to get it open, and Misty’s face, distorted as she pushed it through, her ears flat, her eyes pulled back like an oriental dragon’s as she forced her way to freedom. And then the door was open enough for her to rush through it to the hallway, and for the air inside the room to rush out along with her, dense with the smell of cat shit or something worse.
Before Chloe could investigate, the doorbell shrilled. It was loud, peremptory, and there was no question of ignoring it or hiding: she had to answer it. She hurried back down, narrowly avoiding the dark shape that was Misty crouching at the top of the stairs. There was a big smear up the door, she saw now, as she reached out to open it, a big brownish smudge that ended near the latch.
The bell rang again. Through the rippled glass she could see a shape, a man, his outline blurred and distorted. With a shudder, Chloe opened the door.
‘You forgot your bag, love.’ Mr Norris, with rain spangling his jacket, his tan very brown, his teeth very white. He held the bag out to her but she didn’t take it. She didn’t have time before his eyes tracked over her shoulder and took in the scene behind her and the genial smile faded. ‘Jesus. Jesus Christ. Christ almighty. What the—’
Chloe turned to see what he was looking at, and she could see a lot more when the door was open. A lot more. At the top of the stairs, Misty was still squatting, her eyes glazed and wild, her mouth open. Even as Chloe watched, she bent her head and gently, tentatively, began to lick the floor.
Behind Chloe, Mr Norris retched.
‘I don’t understand,’ Chloe said, and the panic spiralled again but she kept it down, held it back. ‘I don’t understand what’s happened. Please, what’s happened?’
Mr Norris was bent over, the back of his hand to his mouth. He shook his head and it could have been I don’t know or it could have been not now or it could have been something else.
He had his eyes closed.
‘Mr Norris,’ Chloe said, very calmly, because the alternative was screaming. ‘Where’s Mum?’