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“I don’t know what I want. To be honest, I’m still upset about what we’ve just found. I don’t think I’d be much company for Jake.

He doesn’t like me to talk about my job, and you know what it’s like. Once a case is wrapped up all the talking, the going over stuff, it’s like therapy. Anyway, Rocco, Imogen and the others will expect one of us to turn up.” She nudged him playfully. “Joyce will be upset if you don’t come—she seems to be carrying something of a torch for you.”

“First I’ve heard. And don’t you go stirring it. Joyce is a bloody good administrator—if she gets the funnies and leaves, then we’d all miss her.”

“No fear of her doing that, sir. We wouldn’t let her. Is there anything yet on a replacement for Dodgy?”

“No, and I doubt there will be with Jones in penny-pinching mode.”

“I see. So the team shrinks.”

“The mistake we made was managing. All Jones sees is another case wound up. I’ve had the obligatory moan about lack of staff, but nonetheless—we still sorted it.”

“We had help, sir. There was Alice and your new pal from the States.”

“I must Skype Devon later—tell him the good news.”

“And Alice?”

“We’ll see.”

* * *

Lydia drove down Leesdon High Street as slowly as she dared, mentally willing all the traffic lights to change to red. Fallon was sitting at her side, chewing gum and still pressing that damn pistol into her thigh. She was frantically trying to work out what she could do. She was tempted to pull in and make a run for it. But the streets were so well lit that all she’d be doing was making herself a damn good target.

“Step on it, second on the right up here.”

“I know very well where Tom lives. What are you going to do?”

The question had been burning a hole in her brain since they left Cheshire, but she already knew the answer. This wasn’t going to be good. Something had happened—hence the police raid, and Fallon knew Tom was at the bottom of it. He intended to kill him—he had nothing to lose now.

“Let’s put it this way, his detecting days are over. He’s crossed me once too often, and if I’m going down because of him then I’m taking him with me.”

“You’ll not get away with it. Things will be twice as bad for you if you hurt him. They’ll come after you. You’re not stupid. You should turn yourself in.”

He burst into laughter, so hard that he had to wipe the tears from his eyes. “You’re very entertaining as well as being a looker. I can well understand why Thomas keeps you around. There’s a space outside his house—pull into it.”

Lydia was a bag of nerves. Tom was in—she could see the lights were on. She felt sick—what if Zoe and her friend were home too? What would Fallon do to them? Come to think about it—what plans did he have for her?

“Look, why don’t you just go now? I won’t say anything, it’ll be our secret. You don’t have to do this, I won’t tell Tom, honestly.”

“Get out and get the door open.”

Lydia had no choice. She scrambled out of the car and knocked feebly on the front door. Fallon followed, and stood with his back to the wall so Tom wouldn’t see him.

* * *

“I thought I gave you a key.” Calladine opened the door wearing an apron wrapped around his middle. “I’m doing a beef stew—that suit you?”

Fallon pushed Lydia to one side and shoved Calladine backwards into the house. Fallon was shorter than his cousin, but the detective was caught off guard and stumbled back awkwardly.

“Ray! What are doing? You bloody fool!”

“Getting my own back, and how very good it feels too, Thomas.”

Fallon looked around the room. “I always knew it would come to this. You never learn. You sent them after me—you stitched me up with those damn flowers, you interfering bastard. Well, this time you’re not coming out on top.”

Calladine watched Fallon smile. The idiot had a gun.

“Right between the eyes, Thomas. Then I’ll deal with that bloody woman.”

Calladine stepped backwards, his mind frantically searching for a way out. Fallon would kill him and then he’d kill anyone else in the house – Lydia!

“Say your prayers, Thomas.”

He heard Lydia scream. She was standing behind his cousin. If she was going to do something then she had only seconds.

Calladine was frozen to the spot. All he could see was that damn gun, raised and pointed directly at him. Then Lydia struck.

He watched her jump forward, catching Fallon’s arm with her hand at the instant he pulled the trigger. It knocked him off balance and the bullet fell short of its mark, but it still hit him.

Tom Calladine heard her scream again as he crumpled like a rag doll and fell to the floor.

There was heat. Waves of searing heat, and an excruciating stinging sensation. He was falling and he couldn’t hear properly. He was on his back staring up at the ceiling. The light fitting seemed to be swimming wildly in his field of vision. The last thing he saw was Lydia’s face; the last thing he felt were her warm tears falling onto his cheek. But what gave him hope before the blackness took him was the sound of Ruth’s voice somewhere in the distance, and the noise of police sirens tearing up his street.








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