The Betrayal A gripping novel of psychological suspense
Published by Bookouture
An imprint of StoryFire Ltd.
23 Sussex Road, Ickenham, UB10 8PN
Copyright © Laura Elliot 2015
Laura Elliot has asserted her right to be identified as the author of this work.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in any retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publishers.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places and events other than those clearly in the public domain, are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
I’d like to acknowledge the many people who helped me with advice and encouragement throughout the writing of The Betrayal. First off, special thanks must go to my husband Sean who showed infinite patience throughout this process. He was always willing to read and comment on the latest draft and keep the coffee coming. To my family, Tony, who broke my day with his regular phone calls, Ciara for her thoughtful analysis of my story, and Michelle, who talked me down every time I insisted I was taking up bungee jumping as a less stressful hobby option to that of writing fiction. Thanks also to their spouses and partner, Roddy, Louise and Harry – and to my grandchildren, Romy and Ava who have brought such joy, laugher and love into my life.
I’d like to extend my appreciation to Sinead Mullally for her willingness to discuss the mysteries of the comatose state. To Patricia O’Reilly who regularly took time off from her busy writing career to meet and talk about The Betrayal.
Thank you to Oliver Rhodes and the team at Bookouture, my editor Claire Bord for her sensitive editing, Kim Nash for her enthusiastic promotional expertise and Lacey Decker for her eagle-eyed scrutiny of my finished manuscript. It has been a pleasure working with you.
My extended family, those close to home and those separated by continents, your steadfast support throughout my writing career has been invaluable. You’ve kept a firm hand on my back and your wise counsel has been much valued.
To my friends, too many to name, but always ready to phone and insist it’s time to switch off the computer and meet for a catch-up chat and meal …thank you for always being there.
Also, thanks to Faith O'Grady, my agent with whom I've worked closely over the years.
Finally, to my readers – the engine of every writer’s career – thank you one and all for your loyalty, your letters, reviews and social media interaction. It is always a pleasure to hear from you.
To Pauline, Louise and Ronan in Vancouver – oceans apart but always close.
Also dedicated to the memory of my much-loved brother-in-law, Don.
A glimpse. That’s all it takes. One glimpse as she steps from the taxi and I’m back there again, on the edge of a blade, waiting for the relief of another searing cut. I watch her go, her confident stride in tune with the sway of her pert behind. Karin Moylan is more beautiful that I remember, still the petite, hourglass figure, the dainty Cinderella feet. A scar from my teens opening on the turn of a heel. No time for hesitation. I ease back into my car and take refuge. What a coward I am. To hide from my past instead of confronting it with a nonchalant nod, a casual greeting, a polite enquiry about her mother’s health… no… that’s not possible. I watch as she enters the airport. The automatic doors open and close behind her. Able to breathe again, I turn my face towards Jake when he taps on the window to say goodbye. I slide the glass down. He leans forward to kiss me. His lips touch mine, a fleeting caress.
‘Ring you when I get to New York,’ he says.
‘Have a safe flight.’ My hands tighten on the steering wheel, my foot impatient on the accelerator as an authoritative voice on the public address system warns about the penalties of lingering overlong in the drop-off zone.
Jake grips his overnight case, his briefcase in his other hand. Years of experience have taught him to travel light. He follows in her footsteps and turns to wave at the entrance to Departures.
It’s been raining all morning and the windscreen wipers swish briskly as I drive towards the Eastside Business Quarter. Did she see me when her taxi veered past my car and parked further along the drop-off zone? Her scarf fluttered like wings over her shoulders. I’d forgotten how she always favoured blue plumage. Would Jake notice her among the crowd of passengers surging through Departures? Would he recognise her if he did? I fight back panic, shake my head. Too many years have passed since that summer in Monsheelagh and their time together was fleeting.
I could ring Jenny when I reach the office but she’s probably asleep. The eight-hour time difference between here and Vancouver spoils any chance of an impulsive conversation. I’ll ring her later this evening when I’m calmer.
Shock recedes. It has no place else to go as my day gathers momentum. With Jake away we’re one down in Tõnality, the company we run together, and most of my morning is spent tracking a lost consignment of mandolins that was supposed to be en route to us from China. The lost mandolins are traced and rerouted back to us via Rotterdam. I work throughout the afternoon on a new marketing strategy for the STRUM brand. The business park is empty by the time I set the security alarm and close the shutters. No one hangs around here in the evenings. It’s too soulless, too uniform with its cube-like buildings and parallel roads. Jake calls it a battery coop, a place to labour and leave when the day is done.
The silence of the empty house bears down on me when I open the front door. I should eat something; rustle up a pasta, grill a steak. In the end I scramble eggs and toast bread. The kitchen glistens, chrome and granite, honey-toned wood. Four years ago, when we moved here from our modest three-bedroom house on Oakdale Terrace, I joked with Jake that we’d need a skateboard to work this kitchen. I’ve become accustomed to my spacious surroundings but now, with everyone gone, the atmosphere feels different, filled with unresolved issues. The weight of lives lived separately within its walls.
My footsteps seem unnaturally loud as I walk across the marble tiles. A pair of shoes that Jake decided against bringing to New York lie in the hall. I carry them upstairs to our bedroom and place them on the shoe rack. The bed is as tossed as we left it this morning, our pillows still dented. I kick off my high heels and lace up my trainers, change into a track suit. A run will pound her out of my head.
Could I have imagined her? I’ve done so in the past, glimpsed a swirl of blonde hair and found myself staring into the blank, blue gaze of a stranger. This woman’s hair was short, sculpted to her scalp. Perhaps I was mistaken, hassled by traffic jams and having to drop Jake off at the airport. But why that sudden shocked recognition? My skin lifting as if electrified by memory? No, I was not mistaken.
The gates of Bartizan Downs slowly slide apart. I turn right and drive towards Malahide. The village is quiet, apart from a trickle of people emerging from the railway station and a few smokers standing outside Duffy’s pub. I turn down Old Street and head towards the estuary shore where strollers, joggers and dog walkers come in the evening to close off their day. I love this place, with its shrieking seagulls and stately swans. The rain has stopped but the clouds are heavy with the threat of more to follow. It will be dark soon. Already, Sea Aster is invisible on the opposite shore. I lived there with Jake when we were first married. Gentle Rosanna with her camera and binoculars gave us succour when we were desperate. Does her ghost hover over the old house, trapped by the threads of memory? Three months since her death. All that wonderful bird knowledge ebbing away on her last breath. It was her time to go but I still feel the raw grief of her passing. The house belongs to Eleanor now but she will never love it as her mother did.