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Authors: Sharon Bolton

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BOOK: Daisy in Chains
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Fewer than a dozen steps into the drain and water is covering her ankles, surging higher with every wave. The grandmother and the fisherman are still yelling for the child, which is good, because Maggie doesn’t want to open her mouth in here again if she can help it. A dozen steps more. The water is almost at her knees. Her back is starting to ache and the muscles of her thighs can’t hold her in this position for much longer.

‘Daisy?’

A big wave strikes, hitting her full in the face. The child is gone. This is hopeless. She turns back, just as another wave throws her off balance. As she stumbles to her knees, Maggie hears a scraping noise
behind, followed by a strangled cry and then heavy breathing. A shivering body is pushing against her. She turns to see terrified eyes looking into hers, hears a desperate, grateful yipping.

Daisy is a dog.

She can curse her own idiocy later. Maggie grabs hold of the dog’s collar, just as another wave tries to pull the animal back out to sea. As the wave recedes, the dog kicks back against Maggie’s body and scampers towards the hatch.

Another wave, a bigger one. For a second Maggie is beneath the surface, feeling herself sliding along the concrete base of the drain. There is nothing in the smooth, circular pipe to catch hold of. Another wave, she slides back again. The waves are giving her no time to recover before the next strikes. She is being dragged deeper into the tunnel.

Some yards away, Daisy, unable to leap to safety, is barking. The woman and the fisherman are still yelling. Almost too cold to keep moving, hardly able to get her breath, Maggie crawls forward.

She is going to die saving a dog. How completely ridiculous.

Then the dog is on top of her, its sharp claws digging through her jacket, using her as a stepping stone. Claws scrape against stone and then the dog, at least, is safe.

Maggie plants her feet, holds on tight to the sides of the manhole and jumps. Safely on dry land, she falls to the ground beside the exhausted Daisy.

‘Oh, good girl, clever girl, well done.’

Unsure whether the woman’s praise is for her, or the creature she’s just rescued, Maggie runs her hand down the flank of the wet, trembling dog. Big, brown eyes stare up at her from a sweet canine face. The white, smooth body is peppered with black spots. Daisy is a Dalmatian.

‘Hey, beautiful.’ Nudging the dog out of the way, Maggie lowers the hatch again just as a wave – the one that could have killed them both – comes racing up the pipe. She hears something metallic clanking against the grille and knows instinctively what it is. A quick check in her pocket confirms it. She has left her car keys in the tunnel.

‘I’m Sandra,’ says the woman as she starts her car engine and waves goodbye to the fisherman. ‘I’ll have you home in no time.’

‘Thank you.’ Maggie watches her own car getting smaller in the wing mirror. She will have to cycle back to collect it. Or call a cab.

‘I think there’s another rug in the back.’

Maggie already has a travel rug around her shoulders and the heating has been cranked up to maximum but she can’t stop shaking. ‘You’re sure you can get into your house? Because I’ll take you back to ours, run you a bath there. I’m Sandra, by the way.’

‘I keep a key hidden in the garden.’ Maggie would prefer to take the two-mile journey in silence.

‘I can phone my husband. Get him to turn up the heating, make you some hot chocolate? My clothes would probably drown you, but they’ll be warm and dry.’

‘Thank you, but I left the heating on.’

‘Do you have dogs?’ Sandra isn’t an attractive woman. Her face is too thin, her lips almost non-existent, her jaw too prominent. Probably almost as cold as Maggie, her skin is mottled, the tip of her nose bright red. She needs to get home too.

‘It would be with me, don’t you think, if I had a dog?’ Maggie turns to look at the Dalmatian, fast asleep on the back seat. The Raggedy Ann doll, sniffed out and claimed by the dog before the two of them had even got back over the fence, is just visible beneath its head. ‘I’m glad Daisy is OK.’

Sandra pulls over to let another car pass. ‘I came here today to talk to you,’ she says. ‘I didn’t want to come to your house, I didn’t want to intrude, so I thought I’d wait for you at the beach. And then Daisy ran off just before you arrived. It all nearly went so horribly wrong.’

Maggie fixes her gaze straight ahead. ‘The road’s clear,’ she says.

‘I drove over this morning,’ Sandra says before she’s even changed gear. ‘And yesterday morning too. I watched your car pull out of your drive. I guessed you were coming here. And that you come at high tide.’

To have made that guess, the woman must have been watching her for more than two days, has probably followed her here before now.

‘What did you want to talk to me about?’ They are almost at the main road. She can walk from here, if necessary.

‘I’ve read all your books.’ Sandra is breathing heavily, as though walking at speed, not driving a car along a country lane. ‘Someone sent
me three of them, about six months ago. A well-wisher, I never did find out who. I bought the others.’

‘Thank you.’ It will take between ten and fifteen minutes to get home from this point. Longer if she is forced to walk.

‘I enjoyed them. Is enjoyed the right word? I’m not sure. I found them interesting. You make a good argument. They were readable. Not too much technical stuff. And you go easy on the gore, and the violence.’

‘Readers usually choose crime fiction for the gratuitous violence,’ Maggie says.

‘Are you working on another one?’

‘Always.’

‘I don’t suppose you’re allowed to say what it’s about? I mean, who it’s about?’

‘I’m allowed to do whatever I like. But I choose not to talk about work in progress, I’m afraid.’

‘You’re obviously wondering why I’m going on like this.’

‘Actually, I’m wondering how you found out where I live.’

Sandra slows to take a corner. When she is back on the straight she glances over. ‘I’m Sandra Wolfe,’ she says.

For a second, the two women stare at each other. ‘Hamish’s mother,’ Sandra adds, unnecessarily.

‘This is Hamish’s dog.’ Maggie looks round at the motionless animal. ‘Of course. I remember a photograph of the two of them together. It was used a lot while the trial was ongoing.’

‘His defence team thought it would be the most sympathetic. Hamish with his beloved dog. Not that it made any difference.’

‘Her name is Daisy?’

‘My son wrote to you. Four times. I know you saw the letters. He showed me your replies.’

‘How did you get my address?’

Sandra’s chin has the stubborn set of someone who knows she’s in the wrong but won’t back down. ‘Someone found it for me. I promised I wouldn’t say who exactly. Please don’t worry. I wouldn’t dream of invading your privacy. That’s why I waited to talk to you at the beach.’

‘One could argue this is a greater invasion. At home I could close the door on you. All I can do now is wait until you drive me home.’

They’ve reached the main road. Sandra applies the handbrake.

‘Miss Rose, my son is innocent. He isn’t a killer. I know him.’

Maggie wraps her arms around herself. The cold is starting to hurt. ‘I’m sure you believe that, but do you imagine any mother of a convicted killer says anything different? The traffic is usually heavy here at this time of day. You need to be careful.’

They pull out into the path of a yellow car.

‘He was with me the night Zoe Sykes was killed.’ Sandra ignores the angry horn. ‘We had dinner, I drove him home. He couldn’t have killed her, so it follows he didn’t kill the others, doesn’t it? All four women were killed by the same man, so if Hamish didn’t kill one of them, he couldn’t have killed the others.’

They cross the village boundary. Less than five minutes to Maggie’s house. ‘I’m afraid I know very little about the case.’

‘The police didn’t believe me. They thought I was lying. The restaurant couldn’t help. There was no CCTV footage. The staff couldn’t remember, but I know he was with me. He didn’t kill that Sykes woman.’

‘And yet a jury believed that he did.’

‘Have you ever been in a prison, Miss Rose?’

‘Yes, many times.’

‘Then you know what it’s like. Decent people, people like Hamish, they can’t survive in prison. The stench and the violence and the endless noise. He’s not known a moment of silence since he was convicted.’

‘Then the best thing you can do for him is keep him well supplied with ear plugs.’

Sandra flinches. ‘There was a fight on his corridor just yesterday. They pick on him all the time. Every day he’s in fear for his life.’

‘Why me?’

‘I’m sorry?’

‘Why is it so important to your son that I take up his case? Turn right here, please, on to the High Street.’

‘It isn’t just me. There’s a whole bunch of people who support Hamish. People who’ve read about the case. Who know there was a miscarriage of justice. Miss Rose. I wish you’d meet them. They have a website. You can google it.’

‘Mrs Wolfe.’

‘Sandra, please.’

‘As I wrote to your son directly, my work schedule is full for the foreseeable future. I simply don’t have the time. Just before the pub, on the right. Thank you for bringing me home.’

‘I can drive you back to collect your car. When you’ve changed.’

‘I’ll get a cab. And now, if you’ll excuse my being blunt, I don’t expect to see you waiting for me at the beach again.’

‘Wait!’

Maggie is half out of the car. She turns back to see that Sandra is holding something out to her. A small, square cardboard box. ‘He asked me to give you this. He makes them himself.’

Maggie starts to shake her head. On the back seat, Daisy opens her eyes.

‘Please, Maggie, what harm can it do?’

Maggie takes the yellow box tied with white ribbon, closes the car door and sets off along her drive. Only when she has turned the corner and she can no longer be seen does she open it.

Inside is a flower, fashioned from paper. The petals are white, the stalk and leaves a bright emerald green. It is beautiful, perfect.

A convicted murderer has sent her a rose.

Chapter 2

The Times
Online, Monday, 8 September 2014

CONTROVERSY IN COURT AS WOLFE TRIAL OPENS

Accused surgeon, Hamish Wolfe, refused to enter a plea on the first day of his trial at the Old Bailey today. In accordance with English law, he will now be tried as if he had pleaded not guilty.

Dressed in a dark grey suit, white shirt and blue tie, Wolfe appeared to be paying close attention to proceedings, but when asked to speak, he remained silent, in spite of the judge, Mr Justice Peters, on three occasions, advising him that it was not in his interests to do so.

Up until the time of his arrest, Wolfe was a leading cancer surgeon, one of the most highly regarded young doctors in the south-west. He was an active sportsman, a rugby and hockey player, experienced and talented at both climbing rock faces and crawling beneath them. He held a pilot’s licence. Generally considered a very handsome man, he seemed blessed with a loving family and a wide circle of friends. He had just announced his engagement to celebrity model Claire Cole. Today, he faces four counts of abduction and murder. If convicted, he is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison.

The disappearances of four young women between June 2012 and November 2013 sparked one of the biggest police investigations ever conducted by Avon and Somerset police, but it was a lucky break on the part of Detective Constable Peter Weston that led to Wolfe’s arrest in December 2013.

Refusal to plead is rare but usually indicates a desire, on the part of the accused, to decline to recognize the authority of the court. Interestingly, three separate psychiatric reports commissioned by the Crown Prosecution Service were submitted incompletely, giving rise to speculation that Wolfe may be unfit to plead and to stand trial. The detective
who arrested him, though, emphatically disagreed when the suggestion was put to him.

‘Absolute rubbish,’ commented Weston, since promoted to Detective Sergeant. ‘Wolfe understands perfectly well what’s going on and is more than capable of entering a plea. He’s playing games with us. It’s what he does.’

The case of the Crown
v.
Hamish Wolfe will continue tomorrow.

(
Maggie Rose: case file 004/TT8914 Hamish Wolfe
)

Chapter 3


I

VE REALLY GOT
to go. Why don’t you discuss it with Tim?’

‘There is no fucking way—’

The line goes dead. Detective Sergeant Pete Weston starts to count
. One, two, three
– no, he isn’t going to make it to double figures. Not this time.

His eyes slide to the passenger seat where a gold wristwatch lies like tossed litter. He picks it up, wondering at the ability of gold to retain its warmth, even on days like this, and looks at it for a second or two.

Well, it’s never going to fit him.

He gets out of the car, still livid, and pops open the boot, hardly noticing the minuscule ice shards that stab his exposed skin. The wheel wrench is cold in the way that gold never is. He drops the watch to the pavement and strikes it once with the wrench.

He gathers three pieces, doesn’t bother collecting all the shattered bits of the face, and drops them into an evidence bag from the glove compartment. His hands are stiffening with cold by this point, but he takes up his phone.

Found your watch,
he types.
Must have got caught on the seat runner. Might be repairable. I’ll give it to Tim.

Domestic arrangements sorted, he can get on with the job.

He pushes open the iron gate and crunches his way up the path, through an avenue of frozen laurel bushes. The garden is long and narrow. Tall trees grow behind the early Georgian rectory, curving around it, sheltering it like a protective parent. There are large windows to either side of the front door and Weston feels as though he can describe, without seeing them, the elegant, spacious rooms beyond with their high, carved ceilings and limewashed walls.

BOOK: Daisy in Chains
12.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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