Call to Arms: A Detective Kay Hunter crime thriller - Rachel Amphlett - E-Book
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Beschreibung

Kay Hunter has survived a vicious attack at the hands of one of the country’s most evil serial killers.

Returning to work after an enforced absence to recover, she discovers she wasn’t the only victim of that investigation. DI Devon Sharp remains suspended from duties, and the team is in turmoil.

Determined to prove herself once more and clear his name, Kay undertakes to solve a cold case that links Sharp to his accuser. But, as she gets closer to the truth, she realises her enquiries could do more harm than good.

Torn between protecting her mentor and finding out the truth, the consequences of Kay’s enquiries will reach far beyond her new role…

Call to Arms is a gripping murder mystery, and the fifth in the Detective Kay Hunter series:

1. SCARED TO DEATH
2. WILL TO LIVE
3. ONE TO WATCH
4. HELL TO PAY 
5. CALL TO ARMS
6. GONE TO GROUND
7. BRIDGE TO BURN

A page-turning murder mystery for fans of Peter Robinson, David Baldacci and Harlen Coben.

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Call to Arms

A Detective Kay Hunter crime thriller

Rachel Amphlett

Also available on audiobook. Listen to an exclusive sample here

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One

Ten years ago

East of Maidstone, Kent

Jamie Ingram stalked across the darkened farmyard, shoved the crash helmet onto his head, and swung his leg over the motorbike.

He sat for a moment, his heart racing, anger coursing through his veins.

He realised he was grinding his teeth, and he forced his jaw to relax. He leaned forward, flexed his fingers over the handlebars, then started the engine and kicked the bike into gear.

It had been raining since four o’clock that afternoon, a steady downpour that soaked the landscape and had continued into the night. A weak full moon attempted to break through the clouds that tumbled overhead, then submitted to the next deluge.

The Kentish countryside held a starkness to it, tree branches reaching up to the pitch black sky while the promise of an early morning frost clung to the air around him.

A chink of light appeared at one of the upper windows to the farmhouse, before the silhouette of a man emerged.

Jamie remained still, glaring through the visor, his breathing ragged.

As a boy, he had loved waking up to the sound of rain as it beat upon the roof of the house. The crops were dependent on the ebb and flow of the seasons, and despite the risk of flooding, he found the noise soothing.

Tonight though, it seemed to heighten his frayed nerves instead.

Eventually, the figure retreated and the curtain at the window dropped back into place.

Jamie blinked to regain his night vision.

He turned the bike’s wheels in the mud that now coated his boots and pointed it towards the cattle grid separating the property from the lane.

The farm hadn’t been home to animals for nearly two decades, but the cattle grid served as a makeshift security measure – the rumble of tyres across its steel bars could be heard from within the farmhouse, giving its occupants ample time to see who was arriving.

He checked for oncoming traffic before accelerating into the road from habit rather than necessity. He didn’t expect to see anyone – it was the dead of night, after all, and the only people who used the road were the residents of the farmhouse and tenants from a couple of cottages further along.

The high banks and hedgerows either side of the lane sheltered him from the worst of the wind that tried to batter the motorcycle, but did little to protect him from the fresh onslaught of rain that now streaked across the fields.

On any other night, he’d have resisted the urge to be out riding.

The phone call had put paid to that.

He growled under his breath, and leaned the bike into the first bend.

A cold chill crawled over his shoulders as fear began to overcome his anger.

It wasn’t meant to be like this.

Everything was out of control.

The phone conversation had begun with accusations, and deteriorated from there.

He had paced while he spoke, gesticulating with one hand as he tried to placate the person on the other end of the call.

It was too dangerous. They had to stop.

It couldn’t continue – not anymore.

The caller was insistent; there was too much at stake, too many promises made.

He slowed the motorbike as he approached a T-junction, checked his mirrors, and took a moment to roll his shoulders and crick his neck.

Tension clutched at his limbs, and he briefly closed his eyes. A wave of nausea seized him, cramping his stomach.

He reached up and flipped the visor open, gulping in the fresh air, fighting the dizziness that clawed at the periphery of his vision.

Rain pecked at his face, and he savoured the cold water that helped to soothe his burning cheeks.

He had berated the caller for making the promises in the first place. That hadn’t been the arrangement.

They had always known they were on borrowed time, and he wasn’t prepared to take the risk.

Not now. He’d already lost so much.

He took a deep breath, and tried to refocus, clenching his gloved hands to try and wring the tension from them. He reached up and replaced the visor, the Perspex muting the soft undertones of damp earth and ozone, cocooning him from reality.

There was only one person he could speak to who would know what to do.

He wrapped his fingers around the handlebars once more.

He swivelled his head to check for oncoming traffic, and wasn’t surprised when the lane stayed deserted.

Only a fool would be out on a night like this.

Surface water glistened in the light from the headlamp, and he took advantage of the fact that he was the only one on the road and swerved between the deep puddles, using the width of the lane to manoeuvre.

His heart raced as if he’d been running, and he wondered if he had made the right choice. There was no turning back now – when he had made the decision, it had been an automatic knee-jerk reaction. He had been pushed too far, too fast.

What he had first viewed as a bit of a laugh and then a challenge had instead turned into something he had no control over. There were too many others involved now.

The road dipped and curved as the terrain levelled out. A familiar sign glowed in the headlight beam to his left, and he began to slow the machine using the gears rather than risk applying the brakes too hard.

The main road was deserted, and as he approached the junction a flash of movement between the trees beyond his position caught his eye. A moment later, a Eurostar train flashed by, its pantograph sending bright bolts of electricity through the air as it powered its way towards the coast and onwards to Paris.

A dull sensation clawed at Jamie’s chest.

He would give anything to be out of the country again right now.

Resigned, he turned onto the A20 and steered the bike in the direction of Maidstone.

As the gradient began to rise, he lined up to take the corner; it was easy – he’d been riding the route since he had left school and got his licence. His body and the machine moved as one, leaning into the curve as he accelerated to control the turn.

His brain registered the dark shape that loomed in front of him a fraction too late.

Desperate, he pushed the left-hand handlebar away from him in an attempt to swerve, his gut twisting as he realised his mistake.

He cried out, his voice muffled within the confines of the helmet as the shape collided with him.

The handlebars were torn from his grip, and then he was airborne, limp as a rag doll and unable to comprehend what had gone wrong.

The night sky spiralled above him and in the distance, he heard the sickening scrape of metal as his motorbike skidded along the road to a halt.

He screamed as his knees found the asphalt first, the crack of bones inevitable when his body tumbled to the ground.

A moment later, the back of his helmet smacked against the unforgiving hard surface, and darkness claimed him.

Two

Now

DI Kay Hunter elbowed her way through the door to the incident room of Maidstone police station and bit back a sigh of relief as PC Debbie West reached out for the pile of folders she’d been trying to balance under her arm.

‘You shouldn’t be carrying these, they weigh a ton,’ she scolded. ‘You’re supposed to be on light duties for at least another eight weeks.’

‘Thanks, Debs.’ She followed the uniformed officer as she weaved between desks and headed towards the office in the corner of the incident room. ‘I thought I’d be okay with those, to be honest. Actually, could you put them on my usual desk?’

Debbie glanced over her shoulder and smiled as she altered course. ‘Still not going to use your office?’

Kay grimaced. ‘Seems disrespectful, to be honest. I keep thinking Sharp’s going to walk through the door any minute and kick me out.’

Debbie dropped the folders onto the desk and waited until Kay sat down. ‘Any news?’

‘No, but you know as well as I do that Professional Standards investigations are always hush-hush. I guess we won’t know the outcome until he does.’

‘I still say it’s unfair.’

‘Yeah, me too, Debs.’

Kay waited until the uniformed officer had wandered back to her own desk, then contemplated the pile of documents strewn in front of her and resisted the urge to groan.

Her injuries at the hands of one of the most diabolical people smugglers the country had ever witnessed had taken longer than anticipated to heal, despite hours of physiotherapy and enforced rest.

The nightmares returned on a regular basis, but she and her other half, Adam, had elected to keep that news to themselves. She was determined that Jozef Demiri wouldn’t rule her life after his death – not after what he’d put her and other women through when he was alive.

She’d finally returned to work the previous week, having convinced the occupational health therapist that she was likely to commit a serious crime herself if she had to spend another month cooped up at home.

A compromise had been struck, and she was now relegated to what the police service referred to as “light duties”, but which meant she was deskbound for the foreseeable future.

In addition, DCI Angus Larch had stated outright upon her return to work that he expected her to follow orders, and reminded her that her promotion to DI was a probationary one.

Her role to date had resulted in nothing more than a paper-pushing exercise, and she was becoming restless, as well as having a sneaking suspicion that the next few weeks would test her diplomacy skills and patience to the limit.

As it was, she’d spent most of the morning in a training session at headquarters over on Sutton Road, only to be whisked into a management briefing after lunch, and was relieved to return to the incident room at Maidstone police station.

She glanced up as a large mug of tea and a hefty chunk of carrot cake was shoved in front of her, and smiled.

‘Thanks, Carys.’

‘How’re you feeling?’

‘Okay. D’you want to round everyone up and we’ll do the afternoon briefing?’

‘Sure.’

Kay took a sip of tea and watched as the young detective constable made her way through the incident room, laughing and joking with her colleagues as she passed on the message.

She moved with a determined grace that reflected her ambition to work her way up through the ranks, and as she pushed a strand of black hair behind her ear, Kay relaxed.

The woman’s confidence had taken a hit over the winter months after a detective sergeant she’d held in high regard had been found to be involved in a corrupt scheme against DI Devon Sharp and his team, and who was now languishing in an open prison for his role.

It seemed that Carys was starting to put the experience behind her.

The events of the past year had exposed the nefarious activities of a senior officer, DCI Simon Harrison, whose actions had directly impacted Kay and almost resulted in her death.

The personnel at the county police station would take time to recover from the treachery, she was sure, but the fact that Carys seemed to be healing gave her strength.

Kay shivered and buttoned her jacket, trying to ignore the screech of an electric drill from the corridor beyond.

The police station’s temperamental heating system had finally shuddered to a halt three days before she’d returned to work, and a ramshackle team of electricians was still trying to pinpoint the location of the fault in the reverse-cycle air conditioning and fix it before the inhabitants of the building froze to death.

In his usual brusque manner, DC Ian Barnes had corralled the team into buying a set of electric heaters to ward off the cold, but they had little effect in the large space of the incident room.

She hated to think what the electricity bill would look like at the end of the month.

As Kay signalled to the team to join her at the front of the room for the morning briefing, Barnes dragged his chair over to where she stood and sat down with a loud sigh.

‘You’d think they’d have sorted it out by now,’ he said. ‘What’s it been? Five – no, six days? At this rate, we’re going to need earplugs, or risk being left deaf by the time they’ve managed to fix it.’

‘I can’t hear them over an old detective moaning about it,’ said Gavin Piper as he perched on the edge of a desk.

Kay laughed as Barnes scrunched up a sheet of paper and aimed it at the younger DC’s head. ‘All right, enough. Let’s get started, shall we?’

‘Sarge – sorry, Inspector,’ said Gavin.

She waved her hand at him. ‘You know the rules – it’s “Kay” around here, unless we’re outside.’

He grinned, and Kay noted his summer tan had finally had the decency to fade. ‘Still can’t get used to it.’

‘What’s the short name for “Inspector”, anyway?’ said Barnes, scratching his chin. ‘“Insp?” “Spector?”’

‘Stop it,’ said Kay, and wagged her finger at him. She ignored the quirk that began at the side of his mouth, and turned her attention back to Gavin. ‘Right – what’s happening with that break-in over at Aylesford? Got pretty nasty, didn’t it?’

‘Yes – a retired couple were up late watching television when the glass in the kitchen door was broken and an intruder got in. Threatened to burn their pet dog over the gas hob if they didn’t hand over all their valuables. I’m currently waiting on footage from cameras set up at the end of their driveway by a security company over near Sevenoaks,’ said the young DC, and raked his fingers through his spiky blond hair. ‘The homeowner had some sort of top of the range system installed three months ago and doesn’t have access to the files himself. The contact name I was given was supposed to get it to me by Friday, but apparently someone was off sick. If I don’t see anything by five o’clock today, I’ll give them another call.’

‘Do that,’ said Kay, ‘and if you need me to weigh in, just ask.’

‘Will do, thanks.’

‘Is the dog okay?’ said Debbie.

‘Yes, fine. Seemed it was simply used as a threat, nothing else.’

Kay smiled. She had been tempted to ask the same question, and was glad she wasn’t the only one wondering about the dog’s fate.

‘Carys – what’s the latest on the spate of break-ins at the industrial estate in Parkwood?’

‘We’ve got a teenager by the name of Calvin Westford in custody downstairs. First time offender, and scared out of his wits – sounds like he joined in as a dare, and didn’t realise his mates were serious about breaking and entering the premises. He’s currently with PC Norris providing a list of his accomplices.’

A murmur of congratulations filled the room.

‘Nice work, well done.’ Kay tossed the whiteboard eraser to Carys, who caught it with ease and made her way to the front of the room before wiping the case from the board.

She returned the eraser to Kay, a smile on her face. ‘Thanks, guv.’

Kay watched her return to her chair, Gavin providing a high five to his colleague as she sauntered past, and then turned to the folders she’d brought to the front of the room.

‘Okay, tasks for tomorrow – Barnes, this one’s for you. Suspected arson attack over at that little Indian takeaway on the Tonbridge Road last night. The fire brigade asked us to provide support, so can you follow up with them in the morning?’

‘Will do.’

He rose from his seat to take the folder from her, and then began to flick through the pages.

Half an hour later, Kay had set tasks for each of her team and dismissed them for the afternoon.

She returned to her desk and ignored the ache in her forearm, flexing her fingers to ease a muscle spasm as she wiggled her mouse to wake up her computer.

As the team began to filter out of the room at the end of the afternoon’s shift, Kay flopped back into her seat with a sigh and surveyed the reports in the tray.

‘If this is what being a detective inspector is like, they can keep it,’ she muttered. She looked up as Gavin approached her desk. ‘Everything okay?’

‘Yes,’ he said, and shifted his weight from foot to foot. He glanced over his shoulder. ‘I just wondered if you’d spoken to DI Sharp recently, and whether there was any news?’

She shook her head. ‘Nothing to report yet.’

She didn’t mention that she hadn’t spoken to their DI for over six weeks, and a wave of guilt washed over her when she realised she’d been so busy concentrating on getting through her health assessments to get back to work that she hadn’t given a thought to Sharp’s own predicament.

Gavin cleared his throat. ‘Okay. Well – I’ll see you tomorrow, Kay.’

She forced a smile. ‘Will do.’

She rested her chin in her hand as she watched him wind his way between the desks and out through the door of the incident room, his voice carrying over those of Carys and Barnes as the three of them hurried along the corridor towards the exit.

She tossed the folder she was holding into the tray, and then grabbed her bag from under her desk and checked her watch.

Maybe it was time to catch up with Detective Inspector Devon Sharp, after all.

Three

‘A beard?’

‘You don’t like it?’

‘Well, it’s… different.’

Kay managed to stop gaping and made her way over the threshold of DI Devon Sharp’s house before he closed the door and waved her towards the kitchen.

Rebecca, Sharp’s wife, worked at a local childcare centre and given the sound of rock music from the back of the house, was still at work. The way the childcare centre worked, the management staff took turns either working an early morning or a late afternoon to be present when children were dropped off or collected, in case parents wanted to speak to someone.

Kay didn’t know anything about the Sharps’ own children, save for photographs she’d previously seen of a healthy-looking pair of teenaged twins that took pride of place on a bookshelf in the sitting room.

‘Cup of tea?’

‘Please.’

She shrugged off her wool coat and placed it on the back of one of the stylish chairs that surrounded a matching dining table off to one side of the wide space, and dumped her bag on the surface before wandering across the room and leaning against the sink while Sharp turned down the music blaring from a set of speakers on the windowsill.

‘How’re you holding up?’

‘Like crap, but then you’d know all about that.’

She nodded, but said nothing.

‘It’s the boredom, Kay.’

He ran a hand over brown hair that now held the faintest traces of silver and had grown longer over the winter months, and then shook his head.

‘How’s Bec?’

‘Stoical. As always.’

Kay smiled.

Sharp’s wife was like her own partner, Adam. Dependable, not easily flustered, and completely at a loss as to why her other half would throw himself heart and soul into a career that was at worst ungrateful, and at best trying.

‘What about you? Glad to be back at work?’

‘I’m bored, Devon. They’ve got me on light duties.’ She lifted her arm. ‘I’m taking longer to heal than they thought, and apparently I can’t risk overdoing it.’

‘Bet that’s going down well.’

‘Shut up and give me a cup of tea.’

They both laughed.

Kay fell silent as he moved about the kitchen, fetching milk from the refrigerator and fishing the tea bags out of the mug once the drinks had stewed.

He may have been laughing and joking with her, but she could sense the frustration and desperation under the surface of his carefully controlled emotions.

Despite his attempts at normality, the effect of the past three months boiled under the surface.

She knew first-hand how a Professional Standards investigation could prey on an officer’s confidence and health, especially if that officer was innocent of any wrongdoing.

‘You don’t take sugar, do you?’

Kay shook her head to clear her thoughts and tried to refocus. ‘No, that’s right – thanks.’

‘Come on through to the conservatory. Bec’s got me painting the windowsills, so I can work while we chat and I won’t get into trouble for slacking in my duties.’

He winked, then led the way across the room and through an archway to a wide enclosed space that overlooked a garden.

Kay squinted through the window and cast her gaze over the twilight-heavy patio and lawn.

Sharp’s house was in an estate on the opposite side of Maidstone to hers, but the main road that cut through the scattered cul-de-sacs soon turned to country lane as it wound its way out to the village of Otham, and she knew he often saw foxes pass through his garden.

The garden was silent for now, though, and she turned back to the room to see him eyeing her warily over his mug of tea, the paint brushes ignored.

She placed her drink on the small table next to one of the wicker armchairs and dropped the pretence.

‘Devon, I need something to get my teeth into before I go crazy. This whole thing about being a DI – after what I could see happening politically last year, I never wanted to be a part of that. I love being a detective. All I’ve done this past week is shuffle paperwork.’

He shrugged. ‘Sometimes, that’s all there is – making sure the manpower is spread evenly around the area. It’s still important.’

‘But it’s not doing, is it?’

‘So, Demiri didn’t put you off being on the frontline?’

She shook her head. ‘If anything, it’s made me more determined to put people like him away – before they ever get a chance to do what he did.’

His eyes narrowed. ‘What do you want from me?’

Kay crossed her arms. ‘I want to know why there’s a Professional Standards investigation against you, and I want to know what I can do to help.’

He chuckled, and gestured to the two armchairs. ‘Is this simply a ruse to get me back, so I can take care of the paperwork?’

She held up her hand as she sat. ‘All right, so I might have an ulterior motive.’

He placed his mug on the coffee table between them, and then leaned back in his chair with a sigh.

‘The problem is, Kay, if you try to help me, you might damage your own chances of advancement within the force.’

‘Even more than I did last year?’

His eyes hardened. ‘Don’t joke about it, Kay. You fought hard to clear your name and see justice served last year, and it very nearly killed you. Don’t throw that away.’

She took a sip of tea to digest his words, and then set her mug down next to his. ‘And yet, you did the same for me. We’re a team, Devon. We have been for a long time. Let me help you.’

‘You have to promise to be careful, Kay. If you’re going to do this, do it by the book. Remember, it’s all about the politics and that means you’re going to have to work with Larch at some point.’

She grimaced, then conceded the point. ‘All right.’

He nodded, and picked up his tea once more. ‘Where do you want to start?’

‘What happened between you and DCI Simon Harrison?’

Four

‘Harrison was the investigating officer in a case involving the death of a young motorcyclist on the A20 between Leeds and Harrietsham, and already had a reputation for cutting corners to manage his caseload.’

Kay shuffled forward on her chair and rested her elbows on her knees. ‘When was this?’

‘Ten years ago.’

‘You weren’t with the Kent Police at the time.’

‘No, I was still in the military police, and you know what everyone thinks of them.’

She managed a smile. The military police had its own way of dealing with its investigations, and wasn’t always well respected amongst her colleagues for doing so. ‘Go on.’

‘Because the accident happened off barracks, Kent Police were in attendance. I could only be an observer.’

‘What happened?’

‘A young recruit by the name of Jamie Ingram was killed one night in December. It was raining, the conditions were less than ideal, and it was late. The driver of an articulated truck came across the scene only moments after it had happened – the engine of the bike was still warm.’

Kay pulled out her phone and selected the “maps” app. ‘Whereabouts on that stretch of road?’

‘Just before the Broomfield turnoff.’

She ran her eyes over the map before her, and frowned. ‘Strange place to lose control, especially given that the bends there were straightened out over thirty years ago. Was there oil on the surface, or was he going too fast for the conditions?’

She put her phone away, then lifted her gaze to Sharp.

He was glaring at her.

‘What?’

‘Jamie Ingram was one of the best motorcyclists I’ve ever known. I went to school with his father, who still owns the farm Jamie grew up on. By the time he was nine years old, Jamie had a small motorbike and used to go tearing around one of the fields his dad had set aside especially for that purpose. He was winning motocross competitions two years later at a national level.’

‘So, he could handle a bike in any condition, is that what you’re saying?’

Sharp’s features softened. ‘Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying.’ He pushed himself out of his chair and shoved his hands in his jeans pockets as he paced the floor. ‘Sorry. It’s just that at the time – and now – I want to do what’s right for Jamie and his parents.’

‘We were talking about the road conditions that night.’

‘The lead investigator concluded there was no oil on the road, and there was no sign of any other debris that might have caused Jamie to lose control.’

‘Wildlife?’

‘The verges were checked, but they found no injured rabbits, and a deer would have made a hell of an impact on the motorbike. There was nothing like that.’

‘What was the investigator’s conclusion?’

‘His report stated that, for whatever reason, Jamie made a sudden deviation to his line taking the corner and lost control.’

Kay leaned back in her chair and rubbed the base of her skull before dropping her phone back into her bag. ‘I’m getting a crick in my neck.’

Sharp took the hint and sat down with a loud sigh.

‘And what do you think happened, Devon?’

‘I spoke to his commanding officer the day after the accident. Apparently, Jamie had phoned the adjutant the previous morning, requesting an urgent meeting with Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Carterton. The only appointment available was for the Thursday afternoon—’

‘And Jamie died before he could speak to him.’

‘Yes.’

‘Any idea what Jamie wanted to talk to him about?’

‘No, but that’s not the point. It’s highly unusual for a private to make a request like that. Something must’ve been worrying Jamie to make that appointment in the first place, let alone phone it in while he was off barracks.’

‘What do the family think?’

Sharp scratched at his beard. ‘At the time, his father raised concerns that Jamie was nervous when he returned home from Afghanistan.’

‘Post-traumatic stress disorder?’

‘No – Jamie hadn’t been exposed to anything that could have triggered that; he was involved in supplies and logistics and the like. He wouldn’t talk about it to his parents when asked, but they said when Jamie’s mobile phone rang that night, he’d started shaking and had taken the call outside. He wouldn’t tell them what it was about. That was the night of his death.’

‘I don’t get it. Why would there be a PS investigation into your conduct based on this?’

Sharp shrugged. ‘An accusation has been made by a senior officer against me – Harrison. He’s trying to suggest that I didn’t report all the facts to him ten years ago, when I did, and that I may have somehow been involved in what happened to Jamie and tried to cover it up. It’s all bullshit, of course. I suppose until they’ve got through the investigation into his activities, they’re holding judgement on whether to suspend me indefinitely, or drop the PS case and let me get back to work.’ He gestured to the discarded paint brushes. ‘In the meantime, I sit around and wait.’

‘All right. What do you think happened ten years ago?’

Sharp twisted in his chair at the sound of the front door opening, then turned back to Kay and lowered his voice. ‘I think Jamie found out something was going on within his regiment, and intended to report it. I think he was killed before he got a chance to do so.’

Kay felt the air leave her lungs as Rebecca Sharp appeared at the archway leading through to the conservatory, and plastered a smile on her face to hide her shock at her colleague’s statement.

‘Kay – how lovely to see you.’

Kay stood and accepted the other woman’s quick hug. ‘How’re you doing, Bec?’

‘Oh, you know. Running out of jobs for Devon. The sooner he’s back at work, the better.’ Her brow creased. ‘Is that why you’re here?’

Kay caught the look Sharp shot her, and shook her head. ‘No, unfortunately I don’t have any news about that. I only got back to work myself last week, and I’ve spent the past six days feeling like I’m pedalling backwards.’

Bec chuckled. ‘Yeah, that’s what promotion will do to you.’

‘I should let you two get on,’ said Kay, and plucked her bag from the tiled floor. ‘Great to see you, Bec.’

‘You too, Kay.’

Sharp followed her out to the front door, then unlocked it and stood to one side before handing Kay a piece of paper.

‘Here. This is the address for Jamie Ingram’s family. Speak to them. Get a feel for what Jamie was like as a person. Then you’ll understand.’

‘So, we’re doing this, are we?’

‘Up for it?’

‘You bet.’

He smiled. ‘By the way, how’s Adam doing?’

Kay checked her watch. ‘Oh, bloody hell.’

‘What’s wrong?’

‘It’s his birthday today, and right now I’m late taking him out to dinner.’

Five

Kay pushed through the front door to her house and shrugged her coat off her shoulders before hanging it over the newel post.

‘Sorry I’m late!’

‘Up here.’

She ran up the stairs two at a time and made her way to the master bedroom, dumping her bag on the bed as her other half, Adam Turner, emerged from the en suite in a cloud of steam.

‘What time’s the table booked for?’

He grinned. ‘It was booked for six-thirty, but I guessed you were running late, so I’ve asked them to change it to half seven.’

‘You’re a star.’ She kissed him, and then unbuttoned her blouse and tossed it into the laundry basket next to the door.

As she flicked through the clothes hanging in her wardrobe trying to decide what to wear, her heartbeat began to settle. She hated that her job encroached on her home life sometimes, but especially when it was Adam’s birthday and they’d arranged to treat themselves to a meal at an expensive restaurant they favoured for special occasions.

‘Do you want me to order a taxi?’ said Adam. He pushed a cufflink through the sleeve of his shirt and buttoned it.

‘That’s okay – I was going to offer to drive. I’ve got an early start tomorrow, so I can only have one drink anyway.’

He reached out and slapped her bum before dodging out of the way as she spun around. Grinning, he moved to the door.

‘Take your time. I’ll see you downstairs.’

Kay smiled and turned her attention back to the wardrobe before selecting a black dress with spaghetti straps and a red shawl to cover her shoulders.

The stately home that housed the restaurant was beautiful, but could be draughty in the late winter months.

Adam’s voice filtered through the floorboards from the kitchen, and she realised that he’d brought home a patient. By the sounds of it, whatever it was had been let out into the garden before they went out to dinner and was now being resettled for the evening.

Smiling, and with a little trepidation as to what she’d find in her house this time, she finished dressing and then grabbed a small handbag and her shoes and padded downstairs.

A large Alsatian dog eased itself from its bed on the tiles as she entered the kitchen, its brown eyes doleful as it padded across to her and nuzzled her hand.