The Kill by Jane Casey is the 5th book in the Maeve Kerrigan series where the London detective is pulled away in the middle of a wedding to investigate a murder of a fellow officer (available June 2, 2015).
Detective Maeve Kerrigan is away for a colleague's wedding, and she's enjoying an excuse to spend a beautiful fall weekend relaxing in the English countryside. It's a much-needed break from the grit and grime of her daily life on the London police force. But even at a wedding, the job is never far away.
Midway through the reception, Maeve and her abrasive but loyal partner on the police force, DI Josh Derwent, are called back to London. A fellow policeman has been murdered, in a compromising position in a public park at night. And when Maeve and Derwent arrive to speak with the victim's family, his wife and daughter are surprisingly cold and reticent, which adds further layers of complexity to an already delicate investigation. And Maeve knows the victim and his family aren't the only ones with things to hide: the dark secret that her boss, Superintendent Godley, has been keeping for years is threatening to blow up in his face, and if that happens, they'll all be caught in the aftermath.
Pulled between her loyalties to Godley, Derwent, the victim of a murder, and her own driving sense of right and wrong, Maeve will be forced to decide how much she's willing to risk in the name of justice.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
The cold was like a living thing. It had sunk its teeth through the layers of clothing Megan wore, sliding through her skin to get to her bones. They ached. They hurt even more than the muscle cramping in her calf. She pulled her sleeves down over her hands and tucked her arms under her body. Slowly, she let her head sink down too, so her face was pillowed on the grass. She wanted to sleep so much. Her eyes kept closing. Maybe it would be easier to stay awake if she paid attention to the sounds of the night: Hugh’s breathing beside her, the wind in the trees, a rustle in the undergrowth, the music of the stars …
The voice was little more than a whisper but it stabbed through the lovely, soft darkness that had wrapped around Megan like a blanket.
“Hm?” She jerked her head up and looked keenly into the night at absolutely nothing.
It took her a second to work out what Hugh meant, and by the time she’d looked where she was supposed to, there was nothing to see. Beside her, Hugh’s leg twitched in what she guessed was irritation.
“What was it?”
“Great big sow. Lovely lady.”
“I missed it.”
“Shh. She might be back.”
Megan rubbed her eyes and peered at the featureless undergrowth again. All she needed was one flash of black and white, one sighting that she could take home like a trophy to prove that she’d been right to spend Saturday night sprawled in the mud in Richmond Park. She couldn’t shake the unworthy thought that she’d missed The X Factor for this. Bloody Ruby would have watched it, hours ago, curled up on the sofa in their flat. Ruby, who’d be asleep now. Ruby, who’d suggested she was only going out looking for badgers with Hugh because she fancied him. Megan had thought he was cute, but in an abstract, on-the-television-and-therefore-attractive way. She wouldn’t even kiss him, never mind anything more. Even the thought made Megan gag a little, but she turned it into a cough, just in case Hugh asked her what was wrong. She was no good at lying and she didn’t want to hurt his feelings. That good deed earned her a glare from Hugh, and a twitch that made his beard move in a very disconcerting way. Badgers were shy, he’d told her. They had to be quiet and still. With the two of them there, they’d be lucky to see anything at all.
And now she’d missed the only thing to happen for hours. Who knew when Hugh would give up?
The silence settled around them again. Megan made herself concentrate. She would make the best of this. She would see a beautiful badger in the wild, and have an experience to remember forever, and she would never, ever do this again.
The bang was shatteringly loud. It echoed around them and rolled out across the dark open spaces below, and as it faded Megan wasn’t altogether sure she hadn’t imagined it, until the second one came a moment later.
“What the eff was that?” Hugh abandoned any attempt to be stealthy, sitting up, bristling with outrage. He was still too conscious of his image to do anything as uncouth as proper swearing, Megan noted. Minor television personalities did not swear.
“It sounded like a gun,” she said timidly.
“It can’t have been. Must have been a car backfiring.”
“I don’t think it was a car.”
“Must have been.” Hugh was older than Megan by at least ten years, and he didn’t like it when she offered opinions, she’d noticed. He liked it when she listened to him and agreed with what he was saying. But she knew what she’d heard.
“We should call the police.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“I’m not being ridiculous.” But she let her phone slide back into her pocket anyway, recalling that there was no signal where they were. “Look, I don’t like it. Let’s go.” She stood up, assuming that adventures in badger-watching were over for the night since Hugh was practically shouting.
“Get down!” He grabbed her leg, just above her knee.
“If it was a car, it doesn’t matter if I stand up.”
Cowardice fought a battle with superiority and won. “All right. You might be right. It might have been a gun. So stop drawing attention to yourself.”
“They weren’t shooting at us.”
“How do you know?” She could see the whites of his eyes gleaming in the darkness. “They could be extremists. People who hate animal-lovers like us.”
“Now that really is ridiculous.” Megan began to walk away, taking long strides to get through the tangled grass. A flurry of movement behind her was Hugh, rushing to catch up.
Megan absolutely, one hundred percent loathed being called “Meg.” She went faster, concentrating on where she put her feet rather than the swearing and fussing behind her.
“Megan! Get down! There’s a car!”
The road skirted the bumpy hillside where Hugh had said there was a badgers’ sett, where they had waited for hours. She crouched and watched the car pass below them. It was just a shape, little more than a shadow, driving without lights. Its engine seemed noisy in the stillness of the night. Beside her, Hugh was trying to hide in the grass. The tiny spark of attraction flared and died forever.
“It’s okay, Hugh. They’ve gone.”
“Christ … I mean, crikey…”
She gave him a minute to recover himself. “Let’s get back to the car park.”
“I’m going to call the police.”
“Okay. Good idea.” It was a good idea five minutes ago when I suggested it, too. Megan hoped he was on a different network, but in the blue light of the phone’s screen, Hugh’s face was grim.
“Damn. No signal.”
He hurried past her, not waiting to see if she was following. She stuck her hands in her pockets and trudged after him, trying to remember the car and whether she’d seen anything of the driver, or if there’d been a passenger. The police would want to know. If it was connected with the shooting.
If there had even been a shooting.
They were following a different route back, she realized after a while, across the flank of the hill.
“Why are we going this way?”
“This is the quickest way,” Hugh threw over his shoulder, not stopping. “And I don’t want to walk along the road in case they come back.”
Megan considered the long, winding walk they had taken at the start of their expedition, over uneven ground that required a lot of arm-holding and hands-on guiding to navigate. She’d wondered about it, but she hadn’t minded. She minded now, now that she was cold and her feet were wet from the dew and fear prickled across her skin like an electrical charge. She didn’t think they had been targeted, or even noticed, but she didn’t like being out there in the dark when something strange was going on.
Woodland crowned the top of the hill. Megan was glad that Hugh didn’t lead them through it—the trees grew close together and the darkness under the canopy seemed impenetrable. Going around the edge wasn’t much less hazardous. Hugh tripped over a log half-hidden in the grass.
He was concentrating on watching where he was going when Megan exclaimed, “Look.”
“What is it?”
Hugh was crouching before she’d finished saying the second word. “It’s a trap. It must be. An ambush. They pretended they were leaving so we’d show ourselves.” He pulled his phone out of his pocket and checked it again, with the same result. Twisting around to look at her, he snapped, “For God’s sake, Meg, get low and stay low.”
“This one is parked,” Megan pointed out.
It was parked in an odd place, though. There was a small service road that branched off the main one. It wasn’t open to the public—Megan had noticed the signs earlier, on her way past. The car was parked under the trees, pointing into the darkness, and from the road it would have been more or less invisible. From where Megan was standing she could see the back windows and the boot, but that was only because her eyes were used to the lack of light. She couldn’t have said why but she was drawn toward it.
“Where are you going? Come back!”
Megan was getting used to ignoring Hugh’s hissed orders. She kept going, bending to peer inside the car, but the darkness was total. She was within twenty yards of it when she stopped.
“What is it?” Hugh had followed, staying well back.
“The windscreen is shattered.”
“Maybe they crashed.”
“I don’t think so.” She took a few more steps, getting closer. “I think—”
It was like one of those pictures that plays with perception, where a flock of birds turns into a crowd of people. One minute there was a car, familiar and unthreatening despite the broken glass. Then she looked again. Once she’d seen the blood, she couldn’t see anything else.
“What? Meg, what’s wrong?”
The Megan who had agreed, giggling, to go badger-watching with Hugh would have whirled around to bury her face in his chest. That Megan would have let him take charge. That Megan would have sobbed out her horror and upset and would have been glad to be comforted.
That Megan was gone, maybe forever. The new Megan turned to Hugh. Her voice was calm, when she spoke. Cold, even. The distress was there, somewhere, but hidden by a strange kind of composure.
“We do need to call the police. We should hurry.”
“What is it?”
“I think what we heard were shots.” She paused for a second. “I think we heard a murder.”
Afterward, everyone agreed on one thing: she was a beautiful bride. Christine Bell was always pretty, but on her wedding day she glowed with happiness. A cynic might have said the glow was something to do with the small bump under the forgiving folds of her empire-line wedding dress. I might have said it, but I was having a day off from cynicism. Even though I was allergic to public displays of affection, I let Rob hold my hand as Christine walked past us up the aisle. She beamed as she clung to her father’s arm, taking her time about getting to the altar although the organist was thundering through “Here Comes the Bride” as if it was a race to the finish.
Leaning out, I could see Ben Dornton as he turned around to watch her walking toward him and the mixture of love, awe, and hope on his face jolted me out of my usual composure. Ben was a detective sergeant on my team. Balding and thin, he was not my idea of a romantic hero, even in a pearl-gray morning suit, but there was something unguarded and honest in his expression that brought tears to my eyes. I squeezed Rob’s hand as I swallowed the lump in my throat and blinked furiously, afraid to rub my eyes in case I smudged my mascara. He didn’t look at me but I could see the corners of his mouth twitching and knew why: a five-pound bet outside the church that I would cry before Christine made it to the altar.
Which reminded me about the other party to that particular bet. I leaned forward to see across the aisle, to the box pew where DI Josh Derwent was standing on his own, order of service in hand, glowering at me. He shook his head slowly, disgusted. He’d thought I could hang on until the vows before I wept. Not for the first time, I’d let him down.
And since I’d bet both of them I wouldn’t cry at all, I’d let myself down too.
I didn’t care. I shrugged at Derwent and went digging in my bag for a tissue. There were plenty of other people in the congregation who were sobbing happily too: most of Christine’s family, including her father, and lots of my colleagues’ girlfriends who were obviously imagining the day it would be their turn. The two bridesmaids, still pink from their walk to the altar, were dabbing at their eyes. And why not cry? It was a beautiful day, and Christine was a beautiful bride, and the two of them couldn’t have been happier to be getting married. There was a baby on the way, it was true, but this wasn’t a shotgun wedding. They had got engaged months before the bride got pregnant. Christine was a civilian analyst in our office, and liked to confide in me for no reason that I could see, so I had been party to the long, tearful discussions in the ladies’ loo about whether it was better to postpone the wedding until after the baby had arrived or whether she should just get on with it. My vote had been firmly for getting on with it. There was a limit to how many times I could feign interest in swatches of material for bridesmaids’ dresses or wedding favors or accent colors for decorating the chairs at the reception.
Besides, I was looking forward to the wedding. I had a dress I wanted to wear that would just about do for a September wedding. Midnight-blue, narrow, and strapless, it was a world away from my usual work clothes. Rob had booked time off from work so we could go together, and I’d never been to the part of Somerset where the bride’s family lived. The wedding was in a tiny thirteenth-century church in the middle of a postcard-perfect village. The church was currently crammed with rather a lot of the Met’s finest, but you could still admire the rood screen if that was your thing, and the carving on the pulpit, and the marble monuments to local worthies from centuries ago. Afterward the reception would be across the road, in a marquee in the garden of the bride’s aunt’s house. We were staying in one of the local pubs, where they had romantic rooms with low beams and wide, soft beds, and a roll-top bath by the window. I had booked to stay an extra night, so Rob and I could be alone together. In almost two years we’d never gone away anywhere on holidays. A trip to the country, even if it was just for the weekend, made a nice change.
The only problem was that I couldn’t drink any of the French wine that Ben had traveled across the Channel to buy—cases and cases of it, since he knew his colleagues well enough to cater for a big night. Derwent had driven some of it down from London in his car, and Rob had gone to help him unload it while we hung around before the wedding.
“Not that there’s much point since I won’t be able to have any.” Derwent dumped a box by the marquee and went back to get another one.
“Are you on call? So’s Maeve.” Rob was moving much more slowly than Derwent, not being in the least bothered about the inspector’s compulsion to prove himself quicker and stronger than any other man. Tall and broad-shouldered, Rob looked extremely handsome in his best suit. As if he knew what I was thinking, he winked at me before he disappeared inside the marquee. I guessed he was going to put the case behind the bar, where it was needed, rather than leaving it outside. Derwent was on his third case by now, piling them up. I sat on the wall and watched the two of them, amused.
“It’s typical.” Derwent glared at me. “And I’ll be watching you, Kerrigan. No sneaking a glass of fizz.”
“Just to toast the happy couple.”
He pointed at me. “Not a drop.”
“I wouldn’t,” I protested. “I know the rules. Besides, the boss is going to be there. I wouldn’t dare.” The boss was Superintendent Charles Godley, one of the Met’s stars, who was handsome and talented and expected the best from his team. We investigated murders. The most complex and sensitive ones came to us, which was flattering, but it meant that we couldn’t shut down for the weekend. Everyone was invited to the wedding but some of us had to stay sober, ready to rush back to London if we were needed. Rob had been one of us, once upon a time. He knew the score. Given the choice, he would have been happy to be on call too, I felt.
But we wouldn’t be needed. I closed my eyes and tilted my face up so the sunshine could warm it. The weather was perfect. Everything would be perfect.
Derwent nudged my foot with the toe of his shoe. “Wake up.”
“I’m not asleep,” I said, not opening my eyes. “Why are you bothering me?”
“There’s no one else to talk to.”
“Why didn’t you bring a date? Couldn’t you find anyone?”
“Of course I could have found someone. I wanted to come on my own.”
“I have my reasons.”
Something in his voice made me open my eyes. I shaded them with my hand so I could look at him. “Do I want to know what those reasons are?”
A grin. “Probably not.”
“Tell me anyway.”
“Maybe later.” He looked past me and raised a hand. “There’s Ben. Poor fucker. He looks as if he’s going to spew.”
“He’s probably nervous.”
“Nervous that Christine won’t turn up. It’s a good thing he got her pregnant. She’s a long way out of his league.”
“She’s completely in love with him,” I said, my voice sharp. “She’ll be there because she wants to marry Dornton.”
A slow headshake. “That was quality minge.”
I shuddered. “Congratulations. That is absolutely the most offensive way you could have said you found Christine attractive.”
“Do you reckon?” Derwent leaned back, hands in his pockets, thinking. “I bet I can come up with something more offensive than that.”
“Please don’t bother.” I stood up.
“Aw. I was enjoying the view.”
The grin again. “You should always wear skirts like that. With a slit, I mean.”
I had forgotten about the slit. It ran up as far as my thigh, and when I sat down, most of my left leg was on display. I blushed, which was annoying. “Not exactly ideal for work.”
“No. Not with stockings, anyway.” The grin had got wider. “Lace tops, too. Nice.”
“What are you two talking about?” Rob had finished moving the boxes from Derwent’s car, as well as the ones Derwent had abandoned outside the marquee. Now he strolled across the grass to stand beside me. He slung an arm around my shoulders and pulled me toward him so he could drop a kiss on my cheek. I knew my face was hot.
“I was just saying what a lucky man you are,” Derwent said smoothly.
“You won’t get any arguments from me.” Rob’s arm tightened around me for just a second and I didn’t duck away. Having him there was like emotional body armor, which I badly needed when Derwent was around.
I twisted to see the church, where there was a growing crowd centered on Dornton. “Let’s go and talk to the others.”
Derwent had come with us, but diluted by lots of other people he wasn’t as bad. The conversation had been distinctly less personal, at least until Rob and he had started placing bets on whether I’d cry or not.
I looked across the aisle again, to where Derwent was sitting, somber in dark-gray. He looked more like he was at a funeral than a wedding, I thought. Coming into autumn he was at his leanest, with two marathons done for the year and another lined up before winter. His jawline was sharply cut, his cheeks slightly hollow, and to me he looked hungry, but possibly not for food. He was sitting quite still, his attention directed somewhere other than the couple standing at the front of the church, exchanging their vows with tremulous sincerity. I followed the line of his gaze to see where he was looking and I was not in the least surprised to find that he was staring at the prettier of the two bridesmaids. Nor was I all that surprised that she was staring back. He looked all right, from a distance. It was only when you got talking to him that you realized he was the last man on earth you should tangle with.
I just hoped she’d have the sense to run away.
* * *
It was after the dinner (excellent), the speeches (long), and the bride and groom’s first dance (awkward but tender) that Derwent came for me. I was sitting beside Rob, my back to the rolled-up side of the marquee. I was enjoying myself in a mild way but I hadn’t said much all evening. I was missing Liv, my friend and colleague, who was recovering from a nasty injury and had been off work for almost a year. She was traveling with her girlfriend, and had sent good wishes. I would have preferred to have her there. A light breeze from the garden sighed across my skin, but it was hot in the marquee and I didn’t need or want my jacket. Rob had taken off his too, and his tie, and rolled up his sleeves. His hair was a little bit rumpled and I watched him laughing at one of Chris Pettifer’s jokes, the lines lengthening around his eyes in a way that made my heart turn over. True to my word, I hadn’t had a drop to drink but I felt not quite sober, all the same, when I looked at Rob. I wanted to lean against him and whisper in his ear. I wanted to tangle my fingers in his hair and kiss him. I wanted to press my body against him. I wanted to draw him into the dark garden and be alone with him. I settled for dropping a hand on his long, lean thigh, feeling the muscles move under my palm as he registered the contact and knew just what it meant.
Derwent’s voice shattered my reverie. “Can I borrow your bird?”
“Depends,” Rob said. “Why do you want her?”
“Just a dance.”
I looked up at Derwent, unsmiling in his suit. He was as immaculate as he’d been eight hours earlier. So much for the party mood.
“I’m not dancing,” I said.
“I hate dancing when I’m sober.” It was true. I felt too self-conscious. I was too tall to be inconspicuous on a dance floor.
“I’ll look after you.” Derwent held out a hand to me. “Come on.”
“Go on.” Rob nudged me, as if I wanted his encouragement. “I don’t mind.”
“I do,” I said.
“Don’t be such a misery-guts,” Derwent snapped. “Just come and dance with me. It won’t take long.”
Something in the way he said it made me suspicious. “Why? What’s your game?”
He leaned down so he could lower his voice. The music was loud enough that he didn’t really need to murmur. All the same, I could see the need for caution when he said, “I need you to make Beth jealous.”
“Which one is Beth?”
“Does it matter?” Derwent demanded. Then he relented. “The fit one. Dark hair. Nice tits. Not the one who looks like an ironing board in a frock.”
“Good choice,” Rob said. “Good luck, mate.”
“No luck required. Just Kerrigan.”
I was glaring at Rob, who had given no sign of even noticing the bridesmaids, let alone of having assessed their chests.
“What?” he said, blinking at me, all innocence.
“Nothing.” I looked up at Derwent who tilted his head to one side.
I really wanted to say no. I’d felt sorry for Derwent earlier, though, coming to the wedding on his own. He looked lonely. I was pretty sure he was lonely. And I was so completely happy with Rob I couldn’t take away his chance to feel the same way.
“Go on, Maeve,” Rob said. “Have fun.”
I stood up and it took Rob a second to follow my face all the way up. He squinted slightly as he tried to focus and I wondered just exactly how drunk he was. To Derwent, I said, “One dance. But I want you to know I don’t approve of you playing mind games with the poor girl. If you like her, just tell her that.”
“Yeah, because that always works.” Derwent rolled his eyes.
I opened my mouth to reply and stopped, as Rob’s hand slid inside the slit in my skirt and ran up the back of my leg. When he slipped his fingers between my legs so he could stroke the soft skin at the top of my thigh, I thought, Oh. That drunk.
I looked up and saw Derwent grinning at me. He knew exactly what Rob was doing, I realized, and I stepped away from my boyfriend so I was out of range.
“Do I have your permission to do what I like with her?” Derwent asked Rob.
“You have my permission to try. But don’t blame me if she hurts you.”
“Can you stop talking to Rob as if he owns me?” I grabbed Derwent’s arm and marched him toward the dance floor, where the band was halfway through “That’s Amore.”
“When I’m dancing with someone who’s taken, I like to get everything agreed in advance so I don’t get thumped. He’s a big lad, your bloke.”
“So are you.”
“I still wouldn’t want to fight him.”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to ruin Ben and Christine’s wedding with a brawl, so behave yourself.”
Derwent shook his head. “That’s not going to work.”
He took hold of me and took charge, spinning me around so I was breathless and laughing after a couple of minutes. It turned out that Derwent was surprisingly good at dancing, despite the slight limp he’d acquired a few months earlier when he was injured in the line of duty. I was almost disappointed when the song ended. He stood beside me, though, and made no move toward the edge of the dance floor.
“They look happy,” I said, watching Ben and Christine kiss in the middle of the dance floor as people applauded them.
“It’ll be you next.”
“Not next,” I said. “But maybe someday.” I looked across at Rob, who was watching us, a half-smile on his face. His eyes were still slightly unfocused but I had the feeling he was paying more attention than a casual onlooker might have thought.
“That’s commitment,” Derwent said.
“It is for me.”
“I wasn’t taking the piss. He’s lucky.”
“Oh.” I was wrong-footed and, for once, speechless.
“How’s the self-esteem today, Kerrigan?”
That was more like Derwent. I glowered. “Fine. I’m not used to you being nice, that’s all.”
“Saying it as I see it, that’s all. Nothing nice about it.” He waited a beat. “You’re lucky too, though. He puts up with you which is more than ninety-nine point nine percent of men would bother to do.”
Ugh. “If you want to find a girlfriend, do you really think the best way is by dancing with me?”
He pulled me toward him. “I’m not looking for a girlfriend tonight, Kerrigan. I’m looking for a shag. Weddings are all about shagging. And making Beth jealous is the last thing I need to do to tip her over the edge.”
“You old romantic.”
“I am romantic. I love weddings.” The band played the first few chords of “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.” The singer was no Elvis but he gave it his best shot, crooning into his microphone with his eyes closed. Derwent pulled me so close to him the buttons on his jacket dug into my stomach. “I’ve got a system. Scope out the talent during the ceremony. Choose your target. Make contact with her before the meal. Watch her during the meal, so you can see if she’s eating.” He leaned even closer so his lips were almost brushing my ear. “Desire kills all other appetites. If she’s eating, forget it. If she can’t eat, you’re in.”
“Did Beth eat?”
“Not that I saw. And I was watching.” He sounded infinitely smug.
“I still don’t know why you’re mauling me and not her.” I could hear the irritation in my voice and Derwent wouldn’t have missed it. He skimmed his left hand down so it was resting on the curve of my bottom.
“Because she thinks she’s missed her chance and she’ll be so grateful to be wrong.”
“What are you doing?” I wriggled, trying to get away.
“Dancing with you. Settle down and enjoy it, Kerrigan. For the next two minutes, you’re mine.”
He was too strong for me to be able to put any air between us. I felt his breath on my neck, his heartbeating much slower than mine, his hand warm on my skin through the thin material of my dress. His chest pressed against mine and my bodice slid a vital quarter of an inch lower. His hips moved against me, in time to the music, and I found I couldn’t quite catch my breath. His attention was focused on my cleavage but as I leaned back, trying to get some space, he stared straight into my eyes, and that was somehow more intimate than anything else. I couldn’t look away, until he did, and then I took a few moments to find my voice.
“Take your hand off my arse, sir.”
The grin. “Fifty-six seconds. I’m impressed.”
“Move it,” I ordered.
“On a normal bird, that would be your waist.”
“The fact that I’m taller than average is not a reason for you to grope me.”
He let go of me altogether and stepped back, laughing. “I wondered what it would take to make you angry.”
“Sorry to ruin your game.”
“You didn’t.” Derwent’s eyes were narrow with amusement. “Beth left when we started dancing to this song. She’s been gone pretty much the whole time.”
My face was flaming. “So that was you having fun.”
“Oh come on, Kerrigan. You enjoyed it too.”
I turned away from him and stalked through the marquee, then out the other side without speaking to anyone. The sign for the ladies pointed toward a trailer with three cubicles in it and a bank of mirrors and sinks on the other side. I rattled up the steps of the trailer, moving fast, as if I was home free once I got inside. Derwent would follow me if he felt like it. The sanctity of the ladies’ loo meant nothing to him. But why would he follow me? He’d had his fun. He spent his whole life trying to get a reaction from people, the more outraged the better, and I’d played right into his hands. I needed to be alone, just to get my composure back, but of course I wasn’t alone.
Standing at the sink, arms folded, was Beth the bridesmaid. The other bridesmaid was leaning on the counter beside her. The two of them broke off their conversation to glare at me, which settled what they’d been talking about. I took my time checking my appearance in the mirror before I shut myself in a cubicle. I wasn’t going to be intimidated by two twenty-four-year-olds in flamingo-pink satin. I stared at myself, noting that my cheeks were flushed, my eyes bright with upset. At least my hair, straightened for the wedding, was under control for once.
I shut the door and sat down on the closed loo, my hands to my face. My heart was still pounding. I took a few deep breaths of chemical-sweet air. I couldn’t even work out what I was feeling: a hell-brew of embarrassment, shame, and anger. It wasn’t just that I was mortified about being felt up in front of my colleagues and my boyfriend. I couldn’t bear the fact that I had responded to Derwent on some base, biological level, far below logic and reason. Outside, the conversation was continuing in whispers and stifled giggles. Irritation, I found, was a lot better than humiliation. I counted to twenty, then unlocked the door.
“Was there something you wanted to ask me?” I said to Beth.
She looked terrified. “No.”
Her friend was bolder. “What are you doing with Josh? He likes Beth.”
“Yes, he does.”
“And you were hanging around with that fit dark-haired bloke earlier. Isn’t he your boyfriend?”
“Yes, he is.”
For a split-second, the bridesmaid who was not Beth looked disappointed that Rob wasn’t single. As if, I thought, abandoning the moral high ground.
“Well, why were you all over Josh? How do you know him? Or don’t you?”
“I work with him.”
“No you don’t,” Beth said. “He’s a police officer. He investigates murders.”
“So do I.”
She looked surprised. “Seriously?”
“I’m a detective constable.”
I watched the two of them stare at me, checking out the shoes and the legs and the very fitted dress that was cut to make the most of my chest and the least of my waist.
“I think, even if I was a police officer, I’d be ashamed to be that much of a slut in public while my boyfriend was watching.” Plain bridesmaid’s tone was biting.
God, I hated the word slut. I was tempted to snap back, but I took hold of my temper. There was one way to neutralize Derwent, at least for the rest of the evening, assuming he was right and the lady was willing.
“I was just dancing,” I said. “And Josh really likes Beth. Beth, do you like Josh?”
“Then go and find him. Put us all out of our misery.”
I’d have warned her to be careful but there didn’t seem to be much point. I left her checking her makeup as her friend redid her hair, shoving in hairpins with thin-lipped concentration. It had to be hard to be the not-pretty bridesmaid, even if Beth’s reward was a short liaison with my DI.
I walked down the steps to the path that led back to the marquee, not hurrying this time. Light spilled out of the tent across the grass, and the band had gone up-tempo again with “Walking on Sunshine.” Gales of laughter rang out and a woman screamed, then cackled loudly. I wished I felt more like partying. I wished I could have a drink and forget the previous twenty minutes had ever happened.
My eyes were getting used to the darkness. Glancing to my right, I saw a figure standing motionless under a tree. Derwent.
As I got close enough to see his face I faltered and stopped. It was his expression—dark, undisguised desire. I could tell what he wanted and how he wanted it: a willing partner bent over a car bonnet, right there and then. No preamble. No romance. Just sex.
And I was scared. Not of him, but of what I might do. There was a reckless, hand-in-the-fire, jump-in-the-river part of me that I kept hidden, but it still existed. I wasn’t to be trusted with my own happiness. I hadn’t wanted to fall in love with Rob because I knew I would wreck it, somehow. Derwent was the ultimate bad idea, on every level. And I loved Rob.
I knew, though, that if Derwent said my name then, I might be tempted to go to him.
All of this flashed through my mind like a wildfire in the space of a half-second, before I realized he was looking past me, to where Beth was stepping down from the trailer on to the gravel path. I don’t even think Derwent had noticed me break my stride.
I walked on, into the brightly lit marquee, where everyone was flushed from the heat of dancing and the good French wine. Nothing about my appearance would make me stand out to anyone, even though my face was flaming. I tacked sideways, away from where Rob was sitting, knowing that his very inconvenient habit of reading my mind would be too dangerous to risk. I was heading for the bar and a glass of water. I had to recover something like self-possession before I went back to him.
I jumped about a mile. “Sir.”
Godley smiled down at me, tall and film-star handsome as ever. “You can call me Charles. We’re off duty.”
“I don’t actually think I can,” I said truthfully and he laughed.
“Give it another couple of years of working with me and you’ll be calling me far worse things than my name. Look at Josh. He has absolutely no respect for me.”
I flinched a little at the sound of Derwent’s name, and Godley saw it. He frowned, then asked, “Are you having a good time?”
“Of course.” I smiled at him. “I was just going to get a drink. Water, I mean.”
“I could do with a refill too.” He stood back to let me go first, following me to the bar where I waited for the bar staff to notice us. And waited. And waited.
“If you don’t mind, I could try,” Godley said in my ear.
“Be my guest.” I swapped places with him. Instantly, two of the girls dropped what they were doing to rush over and take his order. While we waited for the drinks a heavy-set middle-aged man blundered up to the bar and cannoned into me. With tremendous courtesy Godley put his arm around me to move me out of range. For the second time that night, I was aware of getting a completely undeserved glare from other women because of who I was with.
Which reminded me. As I took my glass from Godley, I asked, “Is Serena here? I haven’t seen her.”
His expression darkened. “She isn’t here. I came alone.”
“You and Derwent both did. You should have been each other’s dates.”
“I’ve seen what Josh does to his dates. No thanks.”
I wondered if Godley had seen what Derwent had done to me. He had moved on, though.
“I should tell you, Maeve … Serena and I are getting divorced.”
“What? Why?” I realized it was none of my business as soon as I asked. “I mean, I’m sorry. Sorry to hear that.”
Godley grimaced. “It’s been coming for a while. Sometimes things go too far and you can’t find a way back to where you used to be.”
“I’m sorry,” I said again.
Godley was about to say something else but his expression changed and he reached into the inside pocket of his jacket to get his phone, which was vibrating from an incoming call. He handed me his glass so he could hold the phone and jam the other hand against his ear. I moved a few steps away to give him some privacy, even though his side of the conversation was monosyllabic. Minutes passed and I edged further away, thinking I should find myself someone else to talk to rather than hang around waiting for the boss to remember I was there. He had tucked the phone between his shoulder and his ear so he could scrawl notes on a paper napkin, writing fast, his expression grim. I watched, not sure how I could help or if I should try.
Godley turned around then, looking for me, and I knew it was bad, whatever he was hearing. He snapped his fingers to get me to come closer and shielded the phone so the person on the other end couldn’t hear what he was saying. “Go and get Derwent. Right now.”
I went. I dumped the glasses on a nearby table and hurried out to the sweet-smelling garden, going as fast as I could though my heels were slowing me down on the gravel path. After a few steps I slid my shoes off and ran on the grass instead, heading for the car park.
The area where the cars were parked was deserted and badly lit, but I could see straightaway I’d been wrong about the car bonnet. No one was even near Derwent’s car, let alone sprawled across it. I slowed down, looking around. I’d been so sure …
As I got closer, I realized I wasn’t as wrong as all that. They were in the back seat.
Without my shoes I was completely silent. I moved around to the window closest to Derwent’s head, and I used the heel of the shoe I was carrying to rap on the glass, hard. His head came up fast and I saw him swearing as he reached over to open the door. Beth was frantically trying to readjust her dress, tugging the top half up and the bottom half down.
“What the fuck, Kerrigan?”
“We’ve got a call.” For Beth’s benefit, because Derwent already knew, I added, “We have to go.”
“It goes without saying that I’m sorry for spoiling your evening.” Godley looked around the small circle of his team, the five of us who had been pulled out of the party to stand and wait for our orders. We were standing a little way from the marquee, on a paved area beside a small pond. Frogs chirped in the darkness. I checked the time: after one and there was no sign of the wedding reception winding down.
Godley went on: “We’ve been asked to investigate the murder of a police officer.”
There was an intake of breath from most of us, but no actual surprise. If we were being brought in to investigate in the middle of the night when we were miles from London, it had to be something serious and complicated. That was Godley’s remit after all.
“Who?” Derwent demanded.
“A sergeant who works out of Isleworth. Terence Hammond is his name. Have any of you come across him?”
Five heads shook in unison.
“Good. That’s a help.” Godley took a paper napkin out of his pocket and checked the notes he’d taken earlier. “He was forty-two. Married, with two children. He was shot in the chest.”
“On duty?” Chris Pettifer this time, barrel-chested and gravel-voiced.
“He was coming off duty. On his way home, around a quarter to one.”
“While he was driving?” I asked.
“No. He’d stopped his car in Richmond Park. His home address is on the Kingston side of the park. I assume he used the park as a shortcut to get home.”
“But why did he stop?” I asked.
“No idea. He was in a side road near the Pen Ponds car park.” Godley read out the GPS location so we could find it. Richmond Park was the biggest area of open ground in London, a diamond-shaped wilderness that sprawled for more than 2,500 acres. I’d worked smaller crime scenes.
Godley went on: “I don’t know any more than that, except that he was found almost immediately, so we can be fairly sure about the timings. His family still hasn’t been informed. This came straight to us because of his job.”
“Are you sure there’s a connection? Was he killed because he was a copper?” Derwent asked. His face was watchful, his concentration total. I found it hard to imagine he had been up to his elbows in a bridesmaid minutes before. His gaze flicked to me for a second and I cut my eyes away from him, staring at Godley as if I had to memorize every detail of his appearance.
“Not sure of anything yet. I’m not even sure of the details. That’s why we need to get there. I don’t like getting everything secondhand.” Godley looked around at us, the light from the marquee throwing half of his face into shadow. “Does everyone have a way to get to the scene from here?”
“I’m all right,” Chris said, and Dave Kemp nodded too. Chris was divorced and Dave had come on his own, just like Derwent. I wondered if he’d had his eye on Beth too. Dave was young and good-looking in a boyish way. Blue eyes, fair hair, and a ready smile would give him a shot with most girls. He hadn’t had a chance, once Derwent decided he wanted Beth. Dave was just too safe. I shivered as the breeze sighed across the garden, rustling leaves around us.
“I’ll need a lift,” Colin Vale said. “I’ll be in even worse trouble with the wife if I take the car.”
“You can come with me,” Godley said. “Maeve?”
“Oh. I should probably get a lift too.” I hadn’t even thought about how Rob was going to get back to London, but of course I wouldn’t be back before he needed to leave. He’d cancel the second night in the hotel. He was practical about these things. He wouldn’t mind as much as I did.
“She can come with me,” Derwent said, as if he was conferring a tremendous honor on me.
“There’s room in my car,” Godley said after a couple of seconds, and I realized everyone was staring at me. I should have said thank you immediately. I should have been more guarded about my expression.
“No, that’s fine. Thank you, sir,” I said to Derwent, who glowered back at me. He wasn’t placated. He didn’t know the meaning of the word.
“All right. Drive carefully, everyone. It’s late and he’s already dead. They’re preserving the scene until we get there so I don’t want anyone to break the speed limit. And for God’s sake stop if you need to get coffee. It’s going to be a long night.” Godley nodded to Colin and the two of them set off toward the sleek black Mercedes that was Godley’s pride and joy. I wished I was going with them. Chris and Dave followed, heads down, hands in their pockets. It wasn’t how any of us had wanted the night to end.
“Do you need to say good-bye to your bloke?” Derwent asked.
“I should,” I said.
“Be quick.” He was already walking away and I hurried to catch up. “You’ll need to get changed too.”
“I was planning to.”
“Can’t crawl around a crime scene looking like that.”
“I’d already come to that conclusion myself.”
“So hurry up.” Derwent kept walking, away from the marquee, and I watched him go for a second before I remembered what I had to do.
Rob was standing up when I went to find him. He’d sobered up somehow, and I could see from the other side of the dance floor that he was fully aware of what was going on.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “There’s nothing I can do.”
“I understand. Is it bad?”
He frowned. “On duty?”
“He’d just come off late turn. He was on his way home.” Which reminded me. “I’ll leave you the car, okay? Can you pack for me?”
I leaned in and kissed him, but briefly. “I’ll see you back in London.”
“Fine,” Rob said, his mind obviously elsewhere. “Is Derwent driving you?”
I wondered why he was asking. “Yes. He offered.”
Rob picked up my hand and kissed the palm. “I’ll miss you. Be careful, Maeve, all right?”
I couldn’t tell if it was my guilty conscience or his gift for mind reading that made me think he wasn’t talking about road safety. Not that I needed telling. That moment with Derwent earlier had been like looking through a doorway into a dark room. Like every heroine in a horror film, I’d been tempted to go in. And every horror film I’d ever seen proved that that would have been a bad idea. At least, and thank God, he hadn’t actually been thinking that way about me. The awkwardness was all on my side, and if I could hide it well enough, no one need ever know.
* * *
Traveling at that hour of the morning, the traffic was light. There was nothing moving on the little country roads that tracked through farmland and forest until we reached the main road, nothing except an occasional rabbit or fox streaking across the tarmac, a blur in Derwent’s headlights. I caught my breath at one near miss and it was all too audible in the silent car. Derwent’s hands tightened on the wheel.
“Just so you know, if the choice is between going into the ditch and running over a rabbit, it’s going to be rabbit jam.”
“They get plenty of warning. You must be able to hear the engine from a mile away at this time of night. If they’re stupid enough to run out in front of the car, it’s their problem.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“No. You didn’t.”
Silence settled on the car again. I was thinking about whether I had remembered to pick up everything I needed from the little hotel room with its smooth unused bed. I’d changed at lightning speed, leaving my dress in a heap on the floor with my heels as I struggled into the trouser suit I’d brought with me. Footwear was a problem; I hadn’t brought much that was suitable for scrambling around in the woods. I’d pulled on the boots I usually wore with trouser suits, hoping they would survive, wishing I had wellies. Mindful of the chill in the early morning air, I wore a thin jumper under my suit jacket. I’d brushed my teeth and scrubbed at the makeup that had settled under my eyes so I looked a little bit less like I’d been partying when the call came. I’d picked up my bag, which I’d left ready to go, complete with notebook, pen, gloves, torch, and radio. Then I let myself out of the room and locked it. I hurried as quietly as I could through the dark up-and-down corridors that ran through the mismatched old buildings that made up the hotel. Then down the creaking stairs to the front door, where Derwent’s car sat with the engine running. I’d paused to hide the key in a flower pot where Rob could find it, then ran to the car. Five minutes, no more than that, and Derwent had still been frowning when I opened the passenger door and got in.
“Leave your stuff on the back seat,” was his only comment, as I arranged my jacket across my lap and tucked my bag into the foot well.
“I’d rather not.”
That got me a raised eyebrow first and a wolfish grin second as he worked out why I didn’t want anything belonging to me anywhere near the back of his car. I didn’t smile back.
So, silence. Derwent whistled under his breath, a habit that always annoyed me, and I looked out of the window. He kept the car moving at a steady hundred wherever he could and I hoped we wouldn’t attract any bored traffic officers. It wasn’t that we’d get in trouble; it was just that it would hold us up. I wanted to get there quickly, but not because I was feeling particularly keen to find out what had happened to Terence Hammond. I wanted to get out of the fast-moving metal box where I was trapped with a man I—what? Disliked? I certainly felt uneasy around him. The Met didn’t believe in partnering up its detectives; it was pure chance that I ended up working with Derwent so often. Chance and a suspicion I had that Godley liked me to work with the inspector, believing, despite much evidence to the contrary, that I was a good influence on him.
The A303 merged with the M3 and Derwent took up his rightful position in the fast lane. I didn’t dare look at the speedometer. Rob drove fast too, but I always knew he was in control of what he was doing. With Derwent, I had no idea if he was being careful or not. I wasn’t going to challenge him about the speed he was doing because it would only make him go faster, so I sat completely still and hoped he was concentrating.
After a few miles, without warning, Derwent swooped from lane three to lane one in a single move. No indicator, but then there were no other cars on the road. I felt the seatbelt press against my sternum as we slowed.
“What are you doing?”
“I need a piss.”
We’d passed a sign for services a little way back. Now another flashed by: one mile to go. Derwent eased off the accelerator some more. I checked the time and bit my lip.
“Sorry. I didn’t realize you were in a rush. You took long enough about getting changed.” His voice was soft but I didn’t make the mistake of thinking that meant he wasn’t angry.
“It took me five minutes.”
“More than that.”
“Are you arguing with me?”
I didn’t answer.
The car park was almost deserted, with just a few cars dotted here and there. Derwent parked in the space beside the one reserved for police cars, right in front of the main building, making a point that he could have used the dedicated space but he chose not to. I’d already opened my door before he turned off the engine, desperate to get out and stretch my legs. When Derwent got out, he didn’t even look at me. He locked the car and walked away, into the building, and I had no idea if he was planning on leaving immediately or if he needed a longer break. I followed, leaving him plenty of space.
The services were always bleak, but especially so at that time in the morning. Most of the shops and catering concessions were closed but one of the coffee shops was open.
Derwent was in and out of the gents in record time. He headed for the counter and I came to stand next to him while a yawning teenager sold him coffee.
“And a chicken sandwich.”
“Is that breakfast?” I asked, and got no answer. He paid and took it to one of the tables, sitting down, which I took as a clue that we’d be there for a while. I got coffee for myself. I had no appetite for food. My stomach ached and so did my jaw. I had been clenching it, I realized.
I sat down and watched Derwent picking the meat out of his sandwich. “No bread?”
“Carbs,” he said, as if it was a complete answer. He drank some coffee and swore, then picked it up and strode back to the counter.
“If I wanted to wait fifteen fucking minutes to be able to drink my coffee, I’d ask for it to be extra hot.”
“Sorry,” the teenager mumbled. His fingers trembled slightly as he took the cup and poured a little away, then filled it up with cold water.
“That’s better.” Derwent came back and sat down. “How’s yours?”
Too hot. Undrinkable. “Fine.” I glanced across at the counter, where the teenager was wiping down the coffee machine with his back to us. His ears were red. “Was that necessary?”
“Did you have to be so unpleasant? I know you’re in a bad mood, but—”
“You’re in a bad mood.”
“I’m not the one who just swore at a poor kid doing a shitty, badly paid job in the middle of the night.”
“What the fuck is your problem, Kerrigan?”
“You should apologize.”
Derwent’s eyebrows went up. “To him?”
“Not to you.”
“Why would you need to apologize to me?”
“I have no idea but I know when I’m getting the silent treatment.”
I shook my head. “I’m not talking to you because you’re in the kind of mood where you’re going to use anything I say as target practice.”
“It’s true.” I sipped my coffee, managing not to wince as it scorched my mouth.
“You’re the one who’s pissed off with me,” Derwent said.
“And why would that be?” I traced a pattern on the lid of my cup. The coffee was cold compared to the rage that was making it hard for me to see straight. My voice was level, though. “Maybe because I work very hard to be seen as more than a token female on the team, and I’ve proved myself time and time again. And despite all of that, you thought it was okay to feel me up in front of all our colleagues.”
“Oh, buy a sense of humor. It was a joke.”
“To you, maybe.”
“It was nothing. It was a couple of minutes of dancing. No one was watching.”
“Everyone was watching.”
He waved a hand, brushing the objection aside since he knew it was true. “It was just friendly.”
“We are not friends.” It was a statement of fact but the words fell between us like a challenge.
Derwent shifted his chair back a couple of inches and I thought he was going to walk off, but he stayed where he was. After a moment, he said, “Anyway. It was your fault for wearing that dress.”
That made me look at him. “What did you say?”
“There wasn’t much of it, was there?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that gave you a license to grope me. What should I have been wearing? A suit like this, so you didn’t accidentally forget I was your colleague?” I dropped the sugar-sweet sarcasm. “It was a wedding. A party. I wore a party dress. Maybe I should have got hold of a burqa since you find it so hard to control yourself when confronted by a fucking frock.”
I had actually, genuinely, lost my temper. Before Derwent could answer me I stood up and stalked to the ladies, using it as a refuge for the second time that night. It took a full two minutes for my hands to stop shaking. I shook my head at my reflection as I ran water into the sink, annoyed with myself for letting Derwent get to me. There was a better-than-even chance he would punish me by leaving without me, and then I’d be stuck at this soulless, depressing rest stop for hours.
When I came out of the loo to find the teenager wiping the table we had used, my heart sank. Derwent had gone.
“Where is he?”
“He left.” The teenager folded the cloth a couple of times. In a rush, as if he had to tell someone, he said, “He gave me twenty quid.”
“Guilt,” I explained. “Did he apologize for being rude?”
“He asked me if I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I said yeah, and he said if it didn’t involve selling coffee I should quit and get a real job.”
Of course he did. “I’m sorry.”
“No, he’s right. This is shit. The pay is shit. I’m going to do it.” He grinned at me. “Tell him I said thanks.”
Instant Stockholm Syndrome. Derwent’s magic touch struck again. Of course he couldn’t do anything as straightforward as apologize for being an arse. And of course it worked.
I thanked the teenager and headed for the car park. I saw Derwent through the glass doors, sitting in the driver’s seat, waiting. He was scrolling through messages on his phone when I got to the car, his expression forbidding.
“If you think you can buy me off with twenty quid and some career advice, you’ve got another think coming,” I said. “I want a proper apology.”
“Get stuffed.” Derwent was still focused on his inbox.
“Right.” I was looking at the cup holder by the handbrake. He’d rescued the coffee I hadn’t been able to drink. A paper bag was propped against the cup. “What’s this?”
He reversed out of the space and cut through the car park, ignoring the arrows for the one-way system. “Your usual. Bacon sandwich, extra lard.”
“You need to eat something. You might not feel like it now, but you’ll be hungry later.”
I was really trying to stay angry, but I couldn’t quite manage it. “Thank you.”
He glanced across at me. “I think it’s stale. The kid gave it to me for free.”
“Yeah, yeah.” I shook my head. “You really are annoying, you know.”
“If anyone is pissed off, it should be me. I was two inches away from getting into the bridesmaid’s knickers when you did your coitus interruptus bit.”
“Godley told me to find you.”
“And Little Miss Nosey knew just where to look.”
“You’re predictable. But I’m sorry. How long did you need? Two, three minutes maybe?”
“Oh, ha ha.” It was his I’ve-had-enough tone and I took the hint.
“Look, she’s a friend of Christine’s. You can get her number. I’m sure you can charm your way back into her pants in no time.”
“We’d have to date, and that means talking to her. Listening to her talk, I should say. I can’t be fucked with it. If I’d done her tonight, we could have met up again. You can always pretend you’re too horny to eat, and then you can just shag. But if you haven’t done the deed you have to start again and make small talk. And I hate small talk.”
“Yes, I imagine there’s nothing worse than getting to know the person you’re about to stick your penis in.” The sarcasm was, inevitably, lost on Derwent.
“It’s so boring I would rather wank.” A sidelong look. “I mean that.”
“Can we go back to not talking?” I asked in a small voice.
“If you want.” Derwent turned up the radio. He’d found the only station in the UK that still played Whitesnake, and it blasted through the car at a volume that vibrated in my bones. I wasn’t all that familiar with the Whitesnake back catalog, but given the alternative, I was willing to be enlightened.
Copyright © 2015 Jane Casey.
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Jane Casey was born and raised in Dublin. A graduate of Oxford with a master's of philosophy from Trinity College, Dublin, she lives in London, where she works as an editor. The Kill is her fifth novel in the Maeve Kerrigan series.