Home > The Guilty Girl (D.I. Lottie Parker #11)

The Guilty Girl (D.I. Lottie Parker #11)
Author: Patricia Gibney

 

PROLOGUE

 

 

Every time a punch landed on his skin, she winced and tried not to look. But she couldn’t help peeking out through her fingers. Thick red streaks paid testament to the beating being meted out. It appeared particularly violent and she wasn’t sure she could stomach much more.

It wasn’t a street fight. It was a sparring match. Rules, timings, trainer and coach. Yet it was brutal. If this was what they did in training, how would it translate into an actual bout with a championship on the line?

She strolled around the perimeter of the raised ring. Eyes cast downwards, she listened instead. The sound of their footwork could have rivalled any Riverdance routine. Sweat flew through the air like a soft morning mist. Wheezing and gasping created a wordless language, as though they were engaged in a silent conversation. And then there were the intermittent slaps and punches. Groans and feet sliding, trying to remain upright. Trying to avoid hitting the deck or they might not get up again. It was imperative not to go down for the count. That could spell disaster. She knew that.

Though she was young, she felt like she’d been around this sport forever. She never understood its attraction. But if it made him happy, she wouldn’t argue.

Reaching the end of the room, she sat down heavily on a bench and waited, stealing the odd glance at the fighters in the ring.

They pirouetted, swayed, ducked and dived, neither man giving in nor giving up. One was destined to be dead within weeks. But she was not to know that as she waited. She was not to know that her actions had already started the tragic events and she still had one innocent mistake to make that would result in death.

Maybe if she’d been more tuned into the dangers of the small slice of world she occupied, she could have halted the series of events about to unfold. But she hadn’t been tuned in at all, so she couldn’t change destiny.

The precariously stacked deck of cards would topple, and as they came tumbling down, few would escape the fallout, least of all her.

So there she sat, oblivious, watching and waiting.

 

 

1

 

 

It was not yet four a.m. and Sean Parker hadn’t slept at all. Perhaps it was the warm cider he’d had at the party. Doubt niggled at his brain, because he couldn’t remember bringing home his new leather jacket. Was that why he’d been unable to sleep?

Mooching around his room, he searched again for the jacket. Anxiety took root in the pit of his stomach as he got down on his knees and looked under the bed. A pair of rolled-up dirty socks and one runner. Dust. Nothing else. He glanced around the room. His gaming chair held his new controller and the second runner. The desk was cluttered, but no jacket.

He’d have to go back.

After pulling on jeans and a clean sweatshirt, he dragged his runners onto his bare feet and rushed downstairs. In the kitchen, he poured a glass of water and stood at the window staring out at the darkness. The jacket had been a present from his mother, an expensive one and he wasn’t to come home without it, she often reminded him. But now he had come home without it. It hadn’t even crossed his mind, because of the heat at the party.

It wasn’t often he ventured out, and the one time he had, he’d lost the jacket. No, not lost. Forgotten. It had to be at Lucy’s house.

It was a mile trek up the country road, that was once he reached the end of the avenue at his own house. The house they called home for now. Farranstown House had apparently been in his mother’s family for decades, and they were basically house-sitting the draughty old building until Uncle Leo made his decision. If she threw a hissy fit over the jacket, Sean could threaten to go live with Leo in New York. That would silence her tirade.

He turned on his phone torch and set off. Lucy might still be partying, and if she wasn’t, he’d hammer the shite out of the door. Facing an angry Lucy beat facing his apoplectic mother any day of the week.

A set of headlights appeared over the brow of the narrow hill. He stepped into the ditch to avoid being mowed down. The driver never even saw him, such was their speed. Sean stared at the red tail lights as the car disappeared. He thought he recognised it. A small Fiat. Hadn’t a lad arrived at the party in it? The same guy who had been serving the alcohol. Perhaps the party had just finished and the door would be open and he wouldn’t have to annoy Lucy. Yes!

He walked on, thinking how the distance appeared so much further in the dark. Over the hill and down the dip and another few hundred metres and he’d be there. A soft whoosh of tyres and he watched as a bicycle with a weak lamp approached. It was just a kid. No one he knew.

‘What you staring at?’ the kid shouted as he passed, disappearing from sight before Sean could reply.

Eventually he saw the light spilling out from Lucy McAllister’s home. Despite the house being lit up like a Christmas tree, all was quiet. Party was over.

Trudging up the shingle driveway, kicking at pebbles, he was deciding on his best approach. He didn’t want to sound childish by telling Lucy he’d forgotten his good leather jacket and his mother would kill him. He had to think of a suitable lie.

The front door stood open and the interior light spilled out into the darkness. Soon the sky would shimmer with the pinkness of dawn, but that was a few hours off yet. He weighed up what to do. He’d run in, find the jacket and leave before he was noticed. Best plan. Buoyed by his decision, he stepped inside.

He stalled, staring at the mess of party debris littering the carpet. Not his problem, but he couldn’t see any coats in the hall. He had a quick look in the kitchen at the end of the hallway. Glasses and bottles stacked along the marble worktops. No sign of his jacket. He backed out and moved into the living room.

Agape, he took in the scene. As untidy as the kitchen had been, he had not been prepared for the destruction in the living room. The patio doors hung open; one had its glass smashed. Upturned chairs and …

Shivers shook his body and he was powerless to stop the spasms. It was as if his whole skeleton was trying to break free of its barrier of muscle and skin. Before him, the wall and the floor beneath it were dotted with blood spatter. What the hell had happened here?

A sound from above broke the deathly silence. Dragging his eyes away from the blood, he glanced up at the ceiling. Footsteps padded down the stairs. Was it the injured person or whoever had caused blood to be spilled? He burst into motion and fled through the door, the one close to where the DJ had played. He moved so quickly he almost toppled head-first over a tangled cable on the floor.

Back in the kitchen, he heard muffled voices in the living room. Someone let out a cry. Then there was silence. He waited for a full minute before he dared look. The living room was empty.

Glancing at the discarded bottles and glasses spread around the kitchen, and the black bin bags full to bursting, he noticed spots of blood on the floor here too. What had happened? Maybe he should get the hell out. But he had inherited his mother’s nose for sniffing out trouble, so he forced himself through another door and up a concrete staircase that led from the utility room to the upper level of the house.

Careful not to stand on the blood spatter – he was frightened but not stupid – he found himself on a carpeted landing. The smell of blood was as strong as the silence was palpable.

He crept along the landing, following the trail into a bedroom. The sheets on the bed were tangled, as if someone had tugged at them, dragging them to the floor. At the far side, he came face to face with the horror he had hoped he would not see, though subconsciously he’d known it would be bad.

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