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Authors: Maureen Carter

Baby Love

BOOK: Baby Love
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Baby Love

Maureen Carter

 

First published in 2006
by Crème de la Crime
Crème de la Crime Ltd, PO Box 523, Chesterfield,
Derbyshire S40 9AT

Copyright © 2006 Maureen Carter

The moral right of Maureen Carter to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any
information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is
published.

All the characters in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Typesetting by Yvette Warren
Cover design by Yvette Warren
Front cover illustration by Peter Roman

ISBN 0-9551589-0-7

A CIP catalogue reference for this book is available from the British Library

www.cremedelacrime.com

 
Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

New Year’s Day

 

For Peter Shannon

 

Acknowledgements

I am fortunate to have a wonderful editor in Douglas Hill. Douglas offers generous support, unerring advice and acute vision. I thank him enormously.

I am also hugely indebted to Lynne Patrick for her faith and focus, and to her inspirational team at Crème de la Crime.

Writing would be a lonelier place without the endless support of some pretty special people. For ‘being there’ even when miles away, my thanks, love and affection
go to:

Sophie Shannon, Corby and Stephen Young, Suzanne Lee, Paula and Charles Morris, Frances Lally and Helen and Alan Mackay. And my ‘sister-in-crime’ Sarah Rayne.

www.maureencarter.co.uk

 

The plain woman in beige trailed wistfully along rail upon rail of tiny baby clothes, pausing here and there to bestow a tender touch, a gentle stroke.
Imagining. Anticipating. Knowing.

This time nothing would go wrong.

More than anything in her drab life, the woman ached to nuzzle the delicate skin of a baby’s nape. She pictured it all the time, breathing in the glorious scent, tasting its uniqueness.
She wanted it so badly it hurt. Surely a new-born’s neck was the most wonderful, most innocent place in the world?

Her acquisitive glance lingered on a line of tiny pastel-shaded sleep-suits, soft as lamb’s fleece, with exquisite hand-stitched teddy bears. It was a new range, or not one she’d
noticed. She wandered closer, impulsively reached out a hand, reluctantly drew it back. The drawers in the nursery at home only just closed as it was. How many clothes could one baby wear?

She moved on, a flicker of a smile adding a fleeting interest to her bland features. At school, the other children had called her The Mouse. Thirty years on, she rarely attracted a second
glance, often not even a first. It no longer rankled; going unnoticed had advantages.

As she headed for the soft toys, her fingers slowly circled her swollen stomach in a gesture that had become habitual and was probably unwitting. She visited the store sometimes twice a week,
had done so for months. It wasn’t the nearest to where she lived; she drove fifteen miles to this much larger branch. It was worth the trip. She revelled in sharing knowing looks with other
women, that conspiratorial glint that boasted approaching motherhood.

Surely, she thought, a woman wasn’t complete until she’d had a child? The days were over, thank God, when it was torture for her even to glimpse a baby. Again, she ran a gentle hand
around her stomach.

This time nothing would go wrong.

By now she was on nodding terms with a few of the staff. She suspected one or two of the sales assistants looked out for her. They were probably on commission. She rarely left without a bulging
bag or two. Bulkier items like the cot and the changing unit had already been delivered to the house.

The mousy woman smiled hesitantly as she passed the counter. Lorraine and Sue were on the tills. Not that she was on first-name terms; the staff wore badges on their uniforms. That was how the
woman knew it had been Sue who’d made the cutting remark all those months ago.

Sue of the pointy stained teeth and flat Midland vowels had blithely assumed the purchases were for the mousy woman’s grandchildren. At the time it was completely crushing, but that was in
the summer when her bump had barely begun to show. Five months on, she was able to laugh it off. Just.

Now the time was so close.

Today the woman bought a huge golden teddy bear and half a dozen white vests to add to the collection at home. As she paid in cash, she recalled the positive outcome of Sue’s thoughtless
faux pas.

Though she had left the store shaking with pent-up rage and humiliation, at home she’d taken a long appraising gaze in the mirror. It was true. She was old before her time. After
Richard’s death she’d lost the will to live, let alone bother with the way she looked. It showed in the face of the dowdy stranger staring back.

Only the thought of the baby had pulled her from the brink. It was unspeakably sad that Richard wouldn’t be around to see the little one grow up. But she could do it. She had to do it. She
had to look to the future, not the past.

She’d bought new clothes, even coloured her hair, but the transformation wasn’t cosmetic; she’d always look mousy. The real changes weren’t visible. She was no longer
cowed at the prospect of bringing up a baby alone; she looked forward to it with energy and excitement. She’d make Richard proud of her, proud of them both.

Today’s trip had exhausted her. On reaching home, she breathed a sigh of relief and happily, avidly, closed the door on the world. She really ought to rest a while, put her feet up and
relax. Later, she whispered, as she slipped off her shoes and carried the bags upstairs to the nursery.

The room never failed to lift her mood. Everything was pristine, everything perfect. It was entirely white: walls, carpet, curtains, each lovingly chosen item of furniture. The only splash of
colour was a vibrant rainbow mobile suspended over the cot. As always, she gave it a gentle tap. Tiny sequins stitched into the fabric reflected the light like myriad raindrops. She watched in
delight until the swaying was barely perceptible.

As she bent, to pack away the vests and place the bear on the floor by the window, she felt a twinge at the base of her spine. It was the extra weight. There was no cause for alarm. She gently
massaged the area before applying the same gentle treatment to her stomach. She smiled; it was so nearly her time.

With difficulty, she reached both hands round her back. The straps were quite tricky to unfasten, even though she’d created the harness herself and had carried out the procedure on
countless occasions. She was rather pleased with the design. She’d ensured it could expand to accommodate increasingly large amounts of padding. This she now removed, placing it gently under
the white satin quilt.

Her head brushed against the mobile, sending it into a gentle spin. She gazed at it, mesmerised again by the twinkling raindrops.

This time nothing could go wrong.

 
1

The rape suite at Highgate police headquarters had six hundred and seventy-six off-white tiles.

Probably.

The number was different every time Detective Sergeant Bev Morriss counted and she’d lost track of how often she’d started. She curled a lip. Tarting up the grim surroundings with primary prints and pot plants didn’t change the
ambience. Pain and shame lingered here, almost tangibly.

Bev slouched back in a not-so-easy chair and blew out her cheeks in a sigh. She was acutely aware that counting tiles wasn’t the most productive use of her time but she couldn’t talk to the victim, Laura Kenyon, until the police doctor
cleared it. He’d been in the examination room with the teenager for two hours. Bev glanced at her watch. It was 9.05 already. Make that two hours twenty.

She picked at a few strands of fraying fabric on the arm of the chair. If the day had panned out according to the best-laid et cetera, she’d be down the Bullring flashing plastic with her best mate, Frankie. A burger at the Hard Rock Café
and Johnny Depp at the UGC had been on the cards for later. Mental note: call Frankie. The girl was going to kill her. Again. Working on a Saturday was a concept Frankie had yet to grasp.

Missing out on a day off Bev could live with, but she deeply regretted eschewing a bowl of bran or a bacon roll during her hasty departure from a house she still couldn’t quite think of as home. Her stomach was making gurgling sounds reminiscent
of faulty plumbing or a dodgy balti. She rummaged through the pockets of her denim jacket for chocolate or chewing gum. Nada.

Earlier, en route from the incident room, she’d grabbed the Operation Street Watch files. A bit of light reading while she waited for the action. She skimmed the reports again. It was ninety-nine per cent certain that Laura’s rape was the
latest in an on-going inquiry that had touched just about every officer on the force. Bev knew the top lines by heart. Not surprising: she’d written most of them. She’d been assigned the lead interview role from day one.

Her mouth twitched as she recalled how well that had gone down with Mike Powell. DI Powell reckoned empathy was his middle name. Fact was, he had the sensitivity of a morbidly obese rhino in a suit of armour. Her relatively high profile on the team
was the governor’s call. Detective Superintendent Bill Byford rated her interview technique. He claimed she could get Trappists to talk among themselves.

She suspected, too, it was a message to the troops that he still had faith in her. She’d cocked up big time earlier in the year, been all ready to jack in the job. The guv had persuaded her to stay, but she was under no illusion: there were
still acres of ground to landscape, not just make up. Either way, Byford wanted consistency. It was why she was here now.

And given the inquiry’s complete lack of progress so far, consistency was about the only thing they did have. Unless Laura Kenyon could give them a break.

Laura was the third city teenager to be raped in as many months. In each case they’d been dragged off the streets in the early hours, then dumped like trash. Bev had only caught a glimpse of the latest victim but it was enough to confirm that
Laura fitted the profile. Like the others, she was pretty with long blonde hair, blue eyes and flawless skin. All three were slender and below average height, slight young women barely capable of landing a punch, let alone winning a fight.

There was another factor that couldn’t be ignored. From the back Laura Kenyon, Rebecca Fox and Kate Quinn could be mistaken for much younger children. Bev shook her head, but the disquieting thought was still there. As was another: there was
little doubt the attacks were down to the same offender.

BOOK: Baby Love
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