Events quickly escalate, and they find themselves dealing with unscrupulous villains who will stop at nothing – not even at kidnapping or murder – to achieve their goals.
A thousand freezing needles hit my face.
Open my eyes. Close them again fast. Engage other senses.
The wind feels like it’s from Siberia. Another Beast From The East. It’s not winter though.
I’ve been unconscious for a while, but I’m sure it’s early April – unless I’ve been out of it for
The violent rain and bone-seeping cold are killing me from the outside, but the spiked wheel
inside my head and the pain in my aching shoulders are internal. They are not of natural origin.
Full consciousness is returning though.
I want to reach up and touch my head, to locate the source of the pain, but my hands are tied
tightly behind my back. That explains why my shoulders are so bloody sore. I try to stretch my
legs out, but they also appear to be bound together. This has one minor – very minor –
advantage. The fabric between my legs is about the only dry patch of clothing on my whole
body. I suspect it won’t remain that way for long. My jeans, jumper and jacket are already
The needles ease slightly as the rain softens. I dare to open my eyes again. It’s dark, and I’m
lying in a ditch. I lift my head a fraction. The spiked wheel spins faster, and I squeeze my eyes
shut in an effort to stop it. A moment’s deep breathing slows it to a manageable level. I allow my
eyes to reopen and try to evaluate my surroundings. The ditch is full of grass, scratching my
hands and neck. I can smell the distinctive aroma of gorse nearby. I’m on the moors somewhere.
There’s a lot of moorland in Lancashire. I may even have been taken further afield. Yorkshire
and Derbyshire are filled with similar terrain.
The rain increases in intensity, and once again those needles spear my head and hands – the
exposed parts of my body. I close my eyes and pray. I try not to calculate my chances of being
found. Dying of exposure is not how I would have chosen to go, but it is beginning to look
Three weeks earlier
The tall woman under surveillance leaves the town house through the front door. She’s wearing a
beige trench coat and knee-high boots. Her stylish appearance matches the confidence in her
demeanour as she sashays to her expensive red SUV.
I raise my Kindle and pretend not to notice her. It’s 2.45 on a drizzly March afternoon, and she
needs to pick her kids up from the primary school down the road. I guessed she would leave
early to get a decent parking spot, but I thought she might have had the decency to look more
flustered. According to her husband, the house from which she’s just emerged belongs to his
business partner, and he’s pretty sure they’re having an affair.
My phone pings. I glance at it before answering.
“Hi Joanna. Everything okay?”
“Fine. How’s it going?” She doesn’t sound very enthusiastic.
“Nothing exciting. She’s heading off now. I’d better follow. Speak later.”
My enthusiasm levels match those of my friend. The private detective dream has been
mundane since we solved our first murder case. The bread and butter for the White Knight
Detective Agency has revolved around infidelity and the occasional suspected fraud. I prefer the
fraud, but none of the three cases we have at the moment are exciting enough to raise my pulse
Starting the car, I follow my prey to the school. It makes sense to park further away; close
enough to watch her, but far enough not to block a space for the other parents and grandparents
on the school run. Seeing her get out and chat to another mum on the pavement, I set off again,
and drive to HQ – aka Joanna and Will’s house.
Settled on Joanna’s couch with a mug of tea, I stretch my legs out. They’re stiff from sitting in
the car most of the day following Mrs Blackstone.
“I can’t be doing with these cases for much longer. Is there anything more interesting in the
Joanna looks thoughtful, but before she can answer, there’s the sound of a key in a lock, and
the front door opens. Will walks in brandishing a newspaper.
“Hi Becks. Mum, is the kettle on?” He waits for her to nod, then slips into the kitchen. He
returns a couple of minutes later with coffee and the newspaper, which he was mean enough to
take with him. “Have you seen this?”
“Didn’t get a chance.” I grimace at him and he laughs. “What is it?”
“I’ve been visiting Chloë. She had an inset day from school, so I took her to Blackpool to the
zoo, but when I dropped her off, I picked up the local paper, and it makes for interesting
reading.” He lays it on the coffee table, already opened at the key article. He reads aloud.
“BANK VAULT CRACKED IN EGG HEIST – In the early hours of this morning, the oldest
bank in Preston was raided in a daring robbery. An estimated three million pounds in cash was
taken, but more significantly, a vault was accessed. It is believed that the unique Fabergé egg,
known as Necessaire, was removed from its secure hiding place where it’s thought to have
resided for nearly seventy years. The man who placed it there is now deceased, but his family is
offering a reward of twenty thousand pounds for its safe return.
“So, what do you think? D’you fancy an egg hunt?” Will’s eyes are alight with excitement.
“Yeah, why not? It’s got to be more fun that what’s going on at the moment.” I pick up the
paper and skim through the rest of the article, but it’s mostly about the bank, confirming that no
one was injured, and that there appear to be no clues.
“I know it looks fun, but don’t forget, you two, we are under contract to do the boring jobs that
are driving us all bloody crackers. We still need to do those too.” Joanna’s expression is grim as
she reminds us of our bread and butter.
“I know, Mum, but there are three of us. I’m sure we can squeeze in a couple of hours a day to
sort this out.”
“Fine.” Joanna holds her hands up in surrender. “But I think we need to plan this. And assign
tasks. Becky, have you ever been involved with detecting a bank robbery before?”
“There have been a few over the years, but mostly idiots in balaclavas holding up the cashier
staff in broad daylight. Nasty, and there have been a few injuries, but we’ve always caught the
perpetrators. This is different. You’re right. It will need planning.” I read through the first
paragraph again. “Will, can you find out about CCTV?”
“That’ll be a police job, won’t it? They won’t give me access.”
“Use your special skills to get the information. I’m sure you’ve hacked into police records in
the past. And you’re supposed to be teaching me and your mum how to do it.”
“I’m not supposed to teach you how to hack the police. That’s not what Roger said.”
Actually, Will’s protests are justified. Roger asked Will to train us in hacking, after he
recruited us to his secret service team. Joanna has been working for him for a couple of years
now, along with my husband, Matt.
“Okay, I added the bit about the police, but Roger would want us to learn how to hack the
more difficult and sensitive institutions. It could prove useful.”
“Let me see if I can do it before we get cocky. I’ve never tried.”
“Well, if you can’t do the police hack, maybe you can get into the bank’s CCTV. That might
be better actually. Go direct.”
Will has a long swig of coffee before answering. “That could be an option. Either way, I need
to work on it by myself before showing you or Mum how it’s done. Maybe when you’re writing
up this plan to schedule all our time, you can slot in a couple of sessions for hacking lessons.” He
grins. “Otherwise, it’s never going to happen.”
“Sure.” I need to knuckle down to my other lessons too – the ones Roger asked me to keep to
myself – the Russian language. I’ve been finding it challenging because of the different alphabet
and some strange pronunciations, but I’m getting to grips with the basics now. Perhaps focusing
on Russian lessons during surveillance would be more sensible than reading steamy romances.
Joanna interrupts my train of thought. “What should I do to get started? I can think of a few
“Let’s start with those then. What are they?” I smile at her. We’ve been working together for
about two months now, and I’m getting used to her ways of working. She knows exactly what
she wants to do, but wants my buy-in too.
“While Will is checking out CCTV from the bank, I thought I’d have a little drive round the
area and do an old-fashioned scout for clues. Do you fancy coming with me, Becks?”
“Yeah, why not? Tomorrow morning? Then I can stake out Mrs B again in the afternoon. She
seems to spend all her mornings at the gym, so I should be safe to go to Preston for a while.”
“Great. I think that’s the best place to start.”
“You said you had a few ideas. What were the others?”
“We should learn a bit more about this egg that’s been stolen. I wouldn’t know it if I fell over
the bloody thing at the moment.”
“That’s a fair point. I’ll leave you to research that one. I need to write up my report for Mr B
“Why the deadline?” asks Will.
“No idea, but he wanted an update by tomorrow, just to know if his suspicions have legs.”
“Do they?” He grins at my wording, so I expand.
“Well, they’re not quite sprinting down the street yet, but they’re strolling round the block.”
Joanna and Will both laugh at that. I finish my coffee and wish them a nice evening before
heading home to write that report.
Waiting for me in my lounge is Roger, sitting casually on my sofa chatting to my husband,
Matt. He stands up when I enter and greets me with a handshake.
“How are you, Becky? I haven’t seen you since your successful completion of the Troy case.”
“I’m fine, thanks. How are you?” I know he’s going to ask me about my progress with the
subjects he asked me to study. He doesn’t disappoint.
“And the Russian? How’s that coming along?”
“Okay. It’s still early days though.”
“Not really. I suppose I gave you six months to become proficient. I’m condensing that to
three. You’re going to need it in your new case.”
“What do you know about our new case?” I glance over at Matt, who’s following the
conversation with obvious interest and some concern. He beckons to me to sit down, and I take a
seat on the chair opposite the sofa. Roger sits back down too and takes his phone from the inside
pocket of his grey suit jacket. He touches the screen a few times before handing it to me.
The screen shows the same article that Will had shown us.
“I want you to take this on,” says Roger.
“It sounds like more fun than shadowing unfaithful spouses. We were just discussing this
earlier today.” I skim through the article to see if there’s any additional information in the online
version, but it looks identical. I scrutinise Roger as I hand him back his phone. “Why do you
want us to work on this?”
“I believe the blend of skills you and your friends provide may solve this case.” His words are
encouraging, but as usual his face is unreadable.
“Why would you get involved in something like this?” I ask, before glancing at Matt, hoping
for reassurance that I’m not being unforgivably rude. He nods a fraction and winks, but just in
case, I add, “I hope you don’t mind me asking.”
A hint of a smile crosses Roger’s face. “How much do you know about the Necessaire?”
With Becky gone, Will and I sit down in front of our laptops at the kitchen table. We’ve always
enjoyed each other’s company, especially when my bastard ex-husband was out of the house. It
was such a relief, and Will has always been such a sweet boy – now grown into a lovely young
I check the newspaper for the name of the stolen egg, and type ‘Necessaire’ into Google. To
discard the stupid number of items about toiletries, I add the word ‘egg’. This narrows it down to
about three hundred thousand results. I get up and make another coffee. I have a feeling I’m
going to need it.
It is difficult to discover much about the egg, as it’s technically been lost since 1952, when it
was sold in London to ‘a stranger’ for £1,250. There are suspicions it’s been sitting in the bank
vault since then, but no one knows for certain, even though the bank manager claims that it’s
true, and that the thieves took the egg in the raid.
I struggle to find a decent description of it. There’s a single black-and-white photo of an egg
sitting in a box. It appears to have patterns on it, and it’s described as decorated with rubies,
diamonds, sapphires and emeralds. Apparently it contains a ‘surprise’ of women’s toilet articles,
whatever the hell that means. After this description, I’m still not convinced I would know it if I
fell over it, but it is supposedly unique, so maybe I’m being unfair.
The company of antique dealers who sold the egg in 1952 was named Wartski, and they
followed the buyer’s request for anonymity – very kind of them, but not helpful to us. We’re
going to have to assume for now that the news article was right, and the stolen egg is the
Necessaire. It will be a shame if it isn’t, but a bank robbery is a legitimate reason to work on a
My phone pings. Becky has sent me a WhatsApp.
‘Roger is instructing us to work on the Preston bank heist. He wants us to find this egg.’
‘Why?’ I’ve not heard from Roger for a while. He seems to prefer going through Becky, and I
don’t think he’s forgiven me for a stupid mistake I made last year. Although by rights, he
shouldn’t know it was my fault.
‘He didn’t provide that information, but he will pay us to work on it for a month. £1000 each!’
‘WTF!’ I’ve always suspected Roger’s payment methods to be unconventional. Not that he’d
do anything illegal, but I don’t know how these payments are justified on his expense tab. When
I’ve worked on projects for him in the past, money appeared in my bank account already taxed,
and shows as payment from ‘R Taylor, Local Government’. He clearly has his channels that he
can work through, but quite what he’s expecting for a month’s salary of one grand… I dread to
My past work for him was pretty straightforward. Technical analysis on samples that one of
his minions would provide in test tubes, under cover of a chance meeting on a park bench at
lunchtimes. I would hang on to the samples until after five, when the office was clear, then run
them through the most appropriate machine to get an accurate result. I’d drop off the result,
either via printout or a USB stick, on the way home, buying a newspaper from a contact at
Edinburgh Waverley railway station. Payment was usually around £20-30 per sample, so the
suggested salary for the egg hunt seems absurd by comparison.
The ring tone on my phone disturbs these thoughts.
“Hi, Becks. What do you think is going on?”
“I don’t know, but it feels quite exciting. How’s your research been going?”
I fill her in on my discoveries about the egg and its poorly-known history.
“How’s Will getting on?” she asks.
I glance at him. He’s deep in concentration, and appears oblivious to everything. He has
headphones on and is staring at the screen of his laptop.
“Good question. He’s miles away right now, even though he’s sitting across the table from
me.” I stand up and go round to look at his screen. My computer knowledge is good enough to
recognise a jumble of code, but beyond that I’m stuck. I debate whether to disturb him, but he
glances round and up at me with a startled expression.
“What’s up? Who are you on the phone to?” he mouths.
“He’s awake, Becky. Do you want a word with him?” At her request, I hand over the phone.
“Is everything okay?” he asks. He doesn’t put it on speakerphone, so I have to make do with
his side of the conversation. “Wow. That should tide us over for a bit until the other idiots decide
to pay us. Yeah, I’m just working on it now. The police system is complicated, but I’ve not given
up yet. I’ll keep going for tonight, otherwise I’ll have a go at the bank’s cameras. Yep. No
problem. See you then.” He disconnects the call. “Sorry, Mum, did you want another word with
“Not desperately, I don’t suppose. What did she say?”
“I assume she told you Roger’s going to pay us?”
“Yes. Quite a hefty sum for a bit of poking around.” I take the phone back.
“I think it’s great. Anyway, she’s coming here at nine tomorrow, so you can leave as soon as
the traffic’s clear. I’m going to stay here and crack on with this.”
I plan to spend the evening watching TV. There’s only so much investigating a person can do
at this stage of a case, and with Will busy trying to break into the police network, I settle on the
sofa to watch Colin Firth as Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. I get as far as the second episode
when my phone rings again. It’s not a number I recognise, and I answer cautiously.
My throat closes up. I know that voice.
“Lou, what do you want?” I wince. I know I sound hoarse, and far more anxious than I would
want my ex-husband to know.
“It’s no’ a crime to want to speak to yer wife, is it?”
“It is when that ex-wife has an injunction against contacting her, so yes.”
Will has wandered in with a glass of wine and grabs the phone.
“Dad, what the bloody hell are you doing? How did you get this number?” This time he puts
the speakerphone on. He places the wine on the coffee table.
“I’ve got me contacts, laddie. And there’s nae point in your ma changing her number again.
They’ll just find her.”
“What do you want with her? Or with me? You’ve done enough damage for one lifetime.”
The bastard laughs and disconnects. Will sits on the sofa next to me and puts his arm round
my shoulders. I’m shaking, and angry with myself for getting so affected.
“Is that wine for me, love?” I try to laugh, but it comes out more like a sob. Will hands me the
glass silently, and I drain it in one.
It takes time for the alcohol to take effect, but gradually the shaking subsides, and I can speak.
Will is still at my side.
“Do you think he knows where I am?” I twist round to look at him, and see concern and doubt
on his face.
“I hope not, Mum, but I think we can add some security here without infringing the rental
agreement. There’s lots of easy-to-install equipment these days. We’ve already got the CCTV at
the door. I’ll head to B&Q in the morning and see what I can get.”
I know I must settle for this solution, but it doesn’t feel like enough. Memories of the bastard’s
violence towards me are never far from the surface, but after his phone call I can almost feel the
sting on my skin from his beatings. They were rarely visible. He preferred to take out his anger
on my back, arse or thighs, using whatever implements were to hand. He favoured his belt, but
candlesticks, books and empty bottles were also fair game.
“Mum, snap out of it. Come on. Don’t let him win. He’s gone, and if he comes near you again,
he’ll be back inside before you can blink.” Will’s sharp tone helps me break through the
recollections, and I shove them away from me.
“Can he not go back inside on the strength of threatening me, or even for contacting me? I was
sure that was in the injunction.”
Will hesitates, and something in his expression holds me back from further questioning. I’m
not sure if it’s pain or fear, but he’s clearly conflicted.
“We’ll sort it, Mum. Don’t worry. I’m here, and I’m not a wee laddie any more. I won’t let
him harm you.”
The journey to Preston is uneventful, with the traffic easing as soon as we get on to the M61.
Joanna seems subdued, so I put the radio on to lift the mood. The rain holds off until we’re
walking from the car park into the town centre, but then it pelts down. There’s no point going
back to the car for umbrellas, so Joanna and I make do with the hoods on our jackets.
“This is bloody ridiculous.” Joanna grabs my arm and points to a coffee shop. “Let’s get inside
and plan a strategy before we drown.”
Settled with coffee and pastries in a corner next to a radiator, we begin to dry off. It has the
added advantage of being quiet, as it’s 10.15 on a workday.
“This was a brilliant idea, coming in here.” I have a bite of my chocolate éclair while I check
Google Maps on my phone. “The bank doesn’t look far away. Actually, there are a few banks
nearby. Did the article say which one it was?”
“That might have been helpful.” Joanna rolls her eyes. “Why don’t you message Roger and
see if he knows?”
I type a quick text and hit Send. One of the staff comes over and starts clearing the table next
to us. I smile at the woman as she glances at us, and she nods and smiles back. She appears to be
in her sixties and a bit on the chubby side, and has a friendly face.
“Excuse me for asking, but do you know anything about the recent bank robbery?” I ask. It’s a
spur-of-the-moment question but feels right.
“Yes, I do as it happens.” She checks her watch. “I’m due for a break in a few minutes, so if
you like, I can come over and tell you all about it. I assume you’ve got a good reason for asking.
Although many people round here have their eye on that reward. I suppose that’s as good an
excuse as any.” Her voice is friendly, and she doesn’t seem to mind being questioned.
I raise an eyebrow at Joanna, and she nods slightly.
“We’re private detectives,” I say in a low voice, and hand her a business card from my wallet.
“Ooh, fascinating! I’m Maggie. Let me take these crocks back, then I’ll grab myself a cup of
tea and come and chat. Would you like a top-up, ladies? On the house?”
I’m halfway through my coffee, so accept gratefully. Joanna looks as though she’s about to
decline, but correctly interpreting a glance from me, thanks the waitress and orders an
Maggie returns a few minutes later with a tray of drinks and some biscuits.
“I told my boss that you were needing information, and I’m well placed to help, because my
hubby is manager of the bank that was robbed.” She sits down and leans in towards us. Her
breath smells faintly of cinnamon and apple. It could be a lot worse. “So, what do you want to
“Everything you can tell us. Let’s start with how your husband found out about the robbery.” I
smile encouragingly, and she beams back.
“We were in bed asleep, like decent citizens ought to be at two in the morning, when Iain’s
phone went. Because of his job he needs to keep it on all the time. He’s got the knack of waking
in an instant, has my Iain, so he answered it straight off. There was this automated message
telling him that there’d been a break-in at the bank, so he jumped out of bed and started getting
dressed. I was properly awake by then, and I said to him, ‘Don’t you go rushing down there in
the dead of night. The villains might still be there, and what if they’ve got guns, eh? It’s not
worth you getting shot over.’ So he listened to me, but carried on getting dressed, and then he
thought a bit, and rang the police to make sure they knew. The system is supposed to contact the
police at the same time as letting him know, but it doesn’t hurt to check.”
“Were the police aware?” asks Joanna.
“Yes, and they said that on no account was he to go there. They had a Squat Team going out
and would let him know when it’s safe.”
Joanna’s brow furrows, and I feel mine doing the same for a moment.
“SWAT team – the specially-trained weapons guys.” I smile as comprehension arrives.
“That’s what I said,” says Maggie, looking indignant. Then she grins. “Squat, swat, what’s the
We all laugh.
“So what happened next?” I ask.
“It’s six before we get another call, and my Iain’s been pacing the floor for hours instead of
going back to sleep like any sensible person would. Anyway, he put the call on speaker, given as
he knew how interested I was, and it was the police, asking him to go in and check if anything
was missing cos one of the vaults had been broken into. Honestly, ladies, I swear, I thought he
was going to faint. Went white as a sheet, he did, but he hung up, and sat on the bed for a minute.
He looked that frail. I said, ‘Do you want me to drive you down there, love?’ He refused at first,
but when he stood up, he was all of a wobble, so I got dressed myself and ran him to the bank.
Swarming with police it was, and he wouldn’t let me get out of the car on account of the rain, but
asked me to pick him up again later.” She pauses for breath.
“Did you find out anything else when you picked him up?”
“I was just getting to that, lovey.” Maggie wags a finger at Joanna. “I got a call about an hour
later. We live about ten minutes’ drive away, so I’d had time to get home and have a cup of tea. I
wasn’t due at work until twelve that day. So when I collected him, poor man, he was soaked
through, but more than that he was distraught about this rare egg that had gone missing. ‘What
sort of egg?’ I asked him. ‘A Russian Imperial egg with jewels on. It’s nigh-on priceless, and
now it’s been stolen. That’s my head on the block,’ he says. Well, thankfully, his boss at head
office came up yesterday and said it’s not his fault. They’ve looked at the footage on the security
camera and decided there was nothing my Iain could have done to prevent it.”
“Who has the footage now?” I think of Will trying to hack systems. It would be a lot easier if
we could just get the data legally.
“I think there are a few copies about, lovey, but my Iain has the original, cos it comes straight
through to his computer. Do you want a copy for your investigations? I could ask him if you
“That would be fantastic, thank you.” I try to remain outwardly calm as she takes out her
phone and makes a call, but my heart is doing excited flip-flops inside my chest. This could save
“Yes, love… All fine here… Yes, I’m talking to these detectives… Can they have a copy of
that security camera stuff? Not the police; proper private detectives. More Hetty Wainthropp than
I stifle a giggle and carefully avoid catching Joanna’s eye. I don’t think I’m quite old enough
yet to resemble Hetty Wainthropp. Maggie’s conversation with her Iain drifts on to other topics
for a minute or two, but then she disconnects and beams at us.
“If you’re okay to wait here for a while longer, loveys, my Iain’ll bring a memory stick over
with the security video on it. I have to get back to work now, but I’ll bring you over another
drink if you like?”
Twenty minutes later, a tall skinny man with a moustache walks into the coffee shop. He goes
over to Maggie, who’s cleaning tables, and greets her with a kiss. She leaves her cloth on a
nearby empty table and brings the man over to us.
“This is my Iain. I’m sorry, loveys, I’m rubbish with names. Can you introduce yourselves
“I’m Becky. This is my business partner and friend, Joanna. To be fair, I don’t think we
introduced ourselves properly earlier.”
Iain shakes hands with each of us, and extracts a small brown envelope from a man-bag.
“Maggie tells me you’re detectives. Do you have any ID? I can’t hand this over to any Clare,
Jill or Sally, you know.” He laughs a little nervously and wipes his hands on a handkerchief that
he extracts from his trouser pocket.
I fish out my business card and hand it over. I can see he’s dithering, so flash my driving
licence at him so he can see that the name on the licence matches the card. When I changed my
name after leaving the police force, I got all my other IDs changed too. It was expensive and
messy, but it’s much better to have everything tied up.
He glances at his wife, who nods and smiles. He appears to come to a decision. “Okay, I’ll
trust you’re who you say you are. The USB stick is in here, ladies. It’s password-protected. If
you give me your mobile number, I will send you the security details via encrypted WhatsApp
While I’m scribbling down my phone number, Joanna invites him to sit and join us, but he
“I’m sorry, dear. I only have a few minutes to spare. Is this the number? Is that a seven or a
four?” He shows me the slip of paper I’ve given him.
“A seven, but what am I thinking? You’ve got my business card. The number’s on there.” I
point at the card on the table, where he put it to inspect the driving licence. “That top number is
“Whose is the third number on the card?” he asks, as Maggie waves a hand and returns to her
“That’s our other partner, Will. He’s busy today, so couldn’t join us. He’s our tech expert, so
he’ll be the one looking at these.”
“Should I send the details to him instead? I’m not comfortable spreading passwords far and
We agree, and I text Will to warn him to expect a message from a strange number, with login
details for a USB stick.
‘What’s on the stick?’ comes back within a minute.
‘CCTV footage from the bank!!!!!’
‘I’ve just bloody hacked it. I’ve been working on that for half the night!’
‘Maybe there’s a difference. Who knows? There could be another clue. We’ll be back in time
for lunch. See you soon.’
“Will’s expecting the login details, so please send them directly to him.” I don’t need to tell
Iain that he’s been pre-empted.
With the information sent to Will, Iain checks his phone a couple of minutes later. “He’s
received it. He’s said thank you. Very polite. We don’t always get that. Seems like a nice chap.”
“He is,” says Joanna. “He’s my son. It’s nice to have him working with us.” Obviously she
doesn’t know the subtext yet, but Will is far too polite and professional to show his irritation to a
client, suspect, or any other individual that we’re called upon to liaise with.
After a brief chat with Iain and Maggie, during which he offers to help with any questions we
might have, we thank them and prepare to leave. A sudden thought has me delving into my purse.
I press a ten-pound note into Maggie’s hand.
“Just in case your boss changes her mind about the coffees being free. And either way, thanks
for all your help. We really appreciate it.”
She looks almost ready to cry and gives me a huge hug, squeezing me until my ribs feel as
though they’ll crack.
“You’re so kind. Thank you.”
We leave and make our way to the bank, following directions from Iain, who found time to
stay for a few more minutes to talk to his wife.
The bank is now open. Apart from a cordon around the back door, there’s little evidence of the
“I was expecting a broken window at least,” Joanna says. “There doesn’t seem to be any sign
of that. Do you think anyone would notice if we went inside that cordon of yellow tape?”
“Let me do it. I never told anyone, but I got a duplicate police badge once when I thought I’d
lost mine. When I resigned, I forgot I had this one.” I extract an authentic police badge from my
handbag and grin. “If anyone asks, I’ve a right to be here. It might be tenuous though, so keep
watch just in case. I’d rather this remained unknown until necessary. And there might be a few
questions about a Manchester DI investigating a crime scene in Preston.”
“Okay, DI White. I’ll keep watch.” She chuckles, and wanders casually along the alleyway
leading back to the street.
I was DI Wiseman back then – in the days before I felt the need to hide my identity from the
world – but there’s no need to correct Joanna just now. I glance round. We’re in a back yard. And
there’s a security camera trained on the back door I want to inspect. It would be far more sensible
to get Will to enlarge the images, and I’m not keen to get spotted on today’s feed. I stroll back to