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Authors: Aline Templeton

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Cradle to Grave

BOOK: Cradle to Grave
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Cradle to Grave
DI Marjory Fleming [6]
Aline Templeton
2011 : Scotland
Accused of murdering the baby in her care, seemingly cold and measured
nanny Lisa Stewart maintains her innocence. But when she changes her
name and tries to run away, the terrifying threats always find her.
Is she an innocent victim of public anger? Or a calculating murderer on the run? 

Cradle to Grave

 

 

Aline Templeton

 

 

 

 

www.hodder.co.uk

Also by Aline Templeton

 

Marjory Fleming series

 

Cold in the Earth

The Darkness and the Deep

Lying Dead

Lamb to the Slaughter

Dead in the Water

 

Stand-alone novels

 

Death is my Neighbour

Last Act of All

Past Praying For

The Trumpet Shall Sound

Night and Silence

Shades of Death

First published in Great Britain in 2011 by Hodder & Stoughton

An Hachette UK company

 

Copyright © Aline Templeton

 

The right of Aline Templeton to be identified as the Author

of the 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, stored

in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without

the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in

any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and

without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

 

All characters in this publication are fictitious and

any resemblance to real persons, living or dead,

is purely coincidental.

 

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

 

Epub ISBN 9781848947153

Book ISBN 9780340976975

 

Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

338 Euston Road

London NW1 3BH

 

www.hodder.co.uk

CONTENTS

To the memory of Robbie Robertson: a good man

1

Wednesday, 19 July

She had no idea how long she had been walking, though such light as there was had begun fading into an ominous twilight. Her flimsy trainers, caked with mud, were squelching and she had lost count of the number of times she had slipped and almost fallen. There was a bloody bruise on her ankle and a deep graze on one hand where she had clutched at a boulder to save herself.

But Beth was unaware of her injuries, unaware of anything, really, except the depth of her wretchedness. She’d always hated rain, ever since that dreadful night two years ago. That dreadful night . . .

The garden had looked strange and unearthly in the cold blue light from the street lamps. The trees were dripping and there were wet leaves on the path, slippery under her hurrying feet. And the trees dripped, dripped, dripped, on and on through the horror of her dreams afterwards. Oh, she hated rain.

Now the downpour that had drenched her hair and soaked right through her inadequate parka seemed as much a part of her as the tears she had shed.

The rocky track, starting at the cove, where a few cottages huddled into the shelter of the low cliff behind, led right round the headland, then circled back, following the rising ground to the top of the bluff itself, from which a precipitous path dropped down to the cove again. The viewpoint there had often been Beth’s refuge, a place where no one could come upon you unawares, where sitting on the old wooden bench, you could be alone with the sky and the sea, and look out to the limitless horizon, dreaming of freedom from the cage of your circumstances. That had been Lee’s promise to her – freedom.

Today, as she walked following the line of the coast, there was no horizon. Sullen sea and leaden sky merged in an indeterminate, lightless grey. The colour of despair.

She had been angry when she left the tiny house. ‘Red angry’, she called it: when rage possessed her so that she could hardly think, or breathe, even. She had yelled at him so much that her throat still hurt.

She wasn’t angry now, though. The relentless pounding of the rain had doused the spark of fury and the greyness had seeped through her, through the pores in her skin, through into the core of her being.

The path had begun to rise sharply and she realised with a sense of shock that she was almost back at the bluff above the cove, a circuit of several miles, and the surge of adrenaline that had driven her to this fierce, pointless activity was long gone. She must have been walking for hours: her leg muscles were starting to twitch and she was breathless with exertion and stress. It was almost completely dark now too; the street lights outside the cottages had come on.

Suddenly she was very, very tired. Too tired to scramble down the path to the cove. Too tired to deal with what awaited her below. Later, she would have to. Just not yet.

The bench, ‘her’ bench, stood only yards from the edge, where a ramshackle fence with sagging wires and a weathered, barely legible notice warned against intrusion on to the eroding ground. Not even pausing to brush off the water collected on the seat, she sat down heavily and put her head in her hands. The hiss of the rain and the low moaning of the sea below seemed almost a cry from her own spirit.

It was cold, though, now that she’d stopped moving. The rain was heavier than ever, coming down in silver rods to flay her defenceless body. It would soon be too dark to see her way down. She would be forced to go back—

The noise assaulted her without warning, the air round about her reverberating with a sound like a clap of thunder directly overhead. But it went on and on, not overhead but beneath her feet. The ground was shaking, shifting, and the terrifying groaning grew and grew.

Screaming, she leaped up and fled back the way she had come, in a stumbling run, until the ground felt stable under her feet once more. She turned and saw that the bench where a moment earlier she had been sitting was slipping away from her, faster and faster, until it disappeared, along with the edge of the cliff, in a final apocalyptic roar.

 

‘What’s she like, then?’ The woman who spoke was perching on the edge of a table in the CID room in the Galloway Constabulary Headquarters in Kirkluce. She was in her late thirties, neat and competent-looking, with a no-nonsense bob and make-up that suggested that when she expended time and thought, it wasn’t on her appearance. Her grey trousers and wrap-top were smart but unobtrusive.

There were only three of them in the room. A demonstration was taking place outside the council offices to protest about the summer floods which had devastated houses in several areas, and the officers not on crowd control had gone along to hold a watching brief.

She had addressed DS Tam MacNee, but he didn’t reply immediately. His swarthy, acne-pitted face took on a jaundiced look; he sucked in air through the gap between his front teeth, then said briefly, ‘Just don’t mess her about. That’s all.’

‘Big Marge,’ DC Kim Kershaw persisted, reflecting on the nickname commonly in use for DI Marjory Fleming. ‘Hunky with it, is she?’

MacNee rose to his full five foot seven – well, six and a bit, but when it came to MacNee, no one was counting. Not out loud, anyway.

‘She’s all right. And as of tomorrow she’s back as my superior officer as well as yours. So keep a civil tongue in your head.’

He picked up the black leather jacket hanging on the back of his chair and shrugged himself into it, then with his hands stuck into his jeans pockets went out, leaving an awkward silence behind him. Kershaw looked after him uncomfortably.

DS Andy Macdonald, who was in his early thirties, tall, dark, with a buzz cut and an instinct for self-preservation, had wisely kept out of it. He took pity on her now. ‘It’s like the Cheshire Cat’s grin. The atmosphere lingers long after Tam’s left the room. You’ll get used to it.’

‘Can’t get it right with him, can I? Oh, probably I will get used to him, or he’ll have to get used to me. One or the other, or preferably both. We don’t have to like each other – this is a place of work, not a dating agency.’

She saw that Macdonald’s brown eyes were looking at her doubtfully. ‘Oh, I don’t mean I want to cause trouble, just the opposite. I want a good professional relationship, but with him it doesn’t seem to work. I daresay we’ll rub along. “Yes, Sarge,” when it’s an order – I can manage that. But for God’s sake tell me what I need to know before I go putting my size sixes in it again. Pals, are they, him and the boss?’

Macdonald hesitated. ‘It’s a bit complicated. They go back a long way. He was her sarge when she was a rookie, but he never wanted promotion to a job that would mean more time at his desk. Not exactly a details man, our Tam. They work together pretty closely – worked together,’ he corrected himself. ‘She’s clever – brilliant at reading the evidence – and he’s got seriously good gut reactions. Great combination. But the suspension . . .’ He sighed. ‘Let’s put it this way. He was on the side of the authorities. He thought she got it wrong. Big time.’

‘Someone died, didn’t they?’

‘Someone died. Let’s leave it at that. It was a misjudgement and media politics were involved. We all get our calls wrong sometimes and it’s over now. If the tribunal’s decision had gone the other way, I’d have handed in my badge.’

‘Seriously?’ Kershaw raised a deeply sceptical eyebrow.

Macdonald met her look squarely. ‘I’m not kidding. Oh, not as some sort of loyalist support. I just wouldn’t trust them. If it was her today, it could be me tomorrow.

‘She was the first woman in Galloway to make promotion to DI, and if there were people who thought that was a man’s job, they don’t think it now. She’s honest and she’s fair-minded, and she’s a good officer. She’ll back you to the hilt unless she thinks you’re not trying.’

Kershaw pulled a face. ‘Very touching, Sarge. Has she got the place bugged, then?’

‘Too smart. She’s not interested in what we say about her behind her back. She’s clever enough to know that’s a good safety valve. Watch what you say to her face, though.’

‘Thanks, Andy. That’s useful. I always like to have a dossier on the boss. But to go back to the original question – what’s she like, Big Marge?’

BOOK: Cradle to Grave
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