The new book in the bestselling Hannah Weybridge thriller series! Dulwich Library is the scene of a grisly murder, followed swiftly by another in Manchester, the victims linked by nothing other than their Australian nationality. Police dismiss the idea of a serial killer, but journalist Hannah Weybridge isn’t convinced. She is drawn into an investigation in which more Australian men are killed as they try to trace their British families. Her research reveals past horrors and present sadness, and loss linked to children who went missing after the Second World War. Have those children returned now?
Once again Hannah finds herself embroiled in a deadly mystery, a mystery complicated by the murder of Harry Peters; the brother of Lucy, one of the residents of Cardboard City she had become friendly with. It soon becomes clear Lucy is protecting secrets of her own.
What is Lucy’s link to the murders and can Hannah discover the truth before the killer strikes again?
Monday 27 June, 1994
The stairwell echoed with the ungainly clump of her footsteps. Her weathered walking boots with unmatched knotted and frayed laces were far too hot and heavy for summer – even with the flow of air offered through various holes – and these last few weeks had been sweltering. Her feet were hot and clammy; a blister had formed where the back rubbed her heel. Whenever she removed her socks layers of skin flaked away. Her feet, more than any other part of her body, disgusted her. Between her toes were signs of an infection. She’d tried talking to the chemist in Boots down The Marsh, but he wanted to see her feet. Her embarrassment overcame her discomfort, so she left without showing him. But these boots were the only footwear she possessed. Flip Flops she thought. Or those plastic sandals. What were they called? Jellies. Silly name. They were cheap. She should store these bloody boots somewhere; or better still get rid of them so her feet could heal in the sun and air.
Her clothes, which had long since lost any of their original colour and shape, stuck to some parts of her body and hung from others. Beneath her skirt, the flesh at the top of her thighs was rubbed raw. There were times when she wished she could peel off her skin and start again. In the depths of night when no one could see her, she wept. Tears were sometimes the only liquid to touch her face for days on end. A caress no person would give.
She paused at the second landing, breathing heavily. The smells of leftover food wafted over from the waste disposal chute with its ornate black front, which never completely closed on what had been thrown into it. Lucy wondered if anyone ever cleaned it. Her mother used to. Not here, but in the similar block of 1930s flats they had lived in nearby. Her mother had scrubbed the steps as well. The steps she used to run up two at a time in her eagerness to get home. How long ago was that? Too long ago to think about. A lifetime ago.
On the third floor she rested against the wall, rubbing her hand, sticky from the balustrade, on her skirt. One more bit of dirt wouldn’t show. She stared out over the sun-dappled square. Everywhere looked so much better in the sunshine. Strangely, there was no one around. No kids on skateboards. No dealers loitering in the shadows. No one screaming obscenities from an open window. An enormous ginger cat, balancing precariously on a window ledge, stared at her disdainfully for a moment then carried on with his meticulous grooming. Everywhere seemed still and quiet. Unnaturally so. Maybe the heat had sucked out the energy from the residents.
She continued her climb, gripping the rail. Panting she reached the fourth floor and wiped her sleeve across her brow. The fabric was stiff with sweat and snot and heaven knows what else. God, she needed a wash. She remembered the public baths in Wells Street. A luxury now closed. She shook the memory away as she hobbled along the walkway to number 39 and banged loudly on the door. Harry was going deaf but claimed he heard her footsteps coming even when he couldn’t hear the knocking on the door. Not that they seemed to have alerted him this time.
Thank you, Anne Coates and Love Books Group
About the author
For most of her working life in publishing, Anne has had a foot in both camps as a writer and an editor, moving from book publishing to magazines and then freelancing in both. Having edited both fiction and narrative non-fiction, she has also had short stories published in a variety of magazines including Bella and Candis and is the author of seven non-fiction books. Telling stories is Anne’s first love and nearly all her short fiction as well as Dancers in The Wind and Death’s Silent Judgement began with a real event followed by a ‘what if …’. That is also the case with the two prize-winning 99Fiction.net stories: Codewords and Eternal Love.