Copyright © 2000 Martina Cole
The right of Martina Cole to be identified as the Author
of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication
may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any
means, with prior permission in writing of the publishers or, in the case of
reprographic production, in accordance with the terms of licences issued
by the Copyright Licensing Agency.
First published as an Ebook by Headline Publishing Group in 2009
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real
persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library
eISBN : 978 0 7553 5074 2
This Ebook produced by Jouve Digitalisation des Informations
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Table of Contents
Martina Cole is the No. 1 bestselling author of fifteen hugely successful novels. Her most recent novel,
, was the No. 1 bestselling hardback adult fiction title of 2008 and went straight to No. 1 on the
hardback bestseller list, as did
which won the British Book Award for Crime Thriller of the Year.
has been adapted for Sky One - with remarkable reviews - and
is currently in production.
was selected by
Richard & Judy
as one of the Top Ten Best Reads of 2003.
also shot straight to No. 1 on the
bestseller lists, and total sales of Martina’s novels are now at nearly ten million copies. Martina Cole has a son and daughter and lives in Kent.
Martina Cole is highly acclaimed for her hard-hitting, uncompromising and haunting writing, as well as her incredible success.
Praise for Martina Cole’s bestsellers:
‘A gritty tale that will keep you hooked’
‘Right from the start, she has enjoyed unqualified approval for her distinctive and powerfully written fiction’
‘Martina Cole again explores the shady criminal underworld, a setting she is fast making her own’
‘The queen of hard-hitting crime fiction’
For Peter P.
In memory of Junior Arnold Govia
Dux femina facti
The leader of the enterprise a woman.
Melanie Harvey walked sedately along Bayler Street in Grantley.
She had been born in the small Essex town, and she was now at college there. She felt this gave her an air of sophistication, being educated, and she was enjoying it, something her teachers would never have believed. But she loved the place, it was her home and it was where she wanted to work and raise her children. Especially since the new order had arrived. Grantley was growing, going up in the world and she wanted desperately to be a small part of it. Gradually the green belt was becoming flats and housing estates - private, of course. The older properties were being knocked down or renovated to make way for the commuters who liked being forty minutes from Fenchurch Street in a place that still felt countrified enough to justify bringing up children there; they would pay through the nose for a small three-bedroomed house. She jogged the same route every morning and was amazed at how fast the places were being built. Obviously they were not meant to last any reasonable amount of time.
Workmen were whistling at her, but she ignored them. At seventeen years old with a DD-cup she was used to dirty old men as she thought of the workers who catcalled from afar. She ignored them as she ignored everyone. Melanie was quite arrogant in her own youthful way.
Dressed in a small top, shorts and Reebok bumpers, with her dark hair swept back and encased in a ponytail, she allowed her eyes to scan the old buildings nearby that were being knocked down.
As she glanced over, she saw a bulldozer begin trundling towards the last of the units to remain intact. The bright sunlight was blocked by cloud for a few seconds and so it was easier for her to see her surroundings.
That was when she saw the movement on the roof of the building. It was only a small movement but it caught her eye. She stared up. The sun was blinding her again and her eyes were watering. But she had seen something moving, she was sure of it.
Then, as she once more heard the dull drone of the bulldozer, the sun disappeared behind cloud again and she saw a small blond head. It was just a glimpse, but it was enough for her. She registered the fact that it could only be a child. An adult would have been easy to make out, whereas the low parapet at the top of the building would hide a child, more or less.
Then she saw it again.
Realising that the man in the bulldozer was about to start demolishing the unit, she ran on to the site. The men laughed at her as she tore across the uneven ground, her white bumpers kicking up dirt and brick-dust, heavy breasts hammering against her ribcage with each heartbeat. She was trying to attract the attention of the man in the bulldozer. She certainly had that. He was watching her with a mixture of appreciation and fear.
She was nearly in his path now. He began to brake. As he halted in front of her she was still trying to draw his attention to something above his head.
The site manager, Desmond Rawlings, ran over to her, his face angry and his language even angrier.
‘What the fuck you think you’re doing?’
Melanie was out of breath, still pointing up at the roof of the building. ‘There’s someone or something up there.’
He automatically looked up and saw nothing. ‘Is this some kind of game, love?’
Melanie shook her head. ‘There is definitely someone up on that roof, mate. Go and look for yourself.’
The driver of the bulldozer was climbing out of his cab now. ‘What’s going on, Des?’
He shrugged, heavy body sweating under the jumper he had put on because it was cold that morning and the donkey jacket he wore with ‘Site Manager’ written on the back.
‘Fuck knows. This bird reckons there’s someone up there.’ He pointed once more to the roof of the building. Now all the men were looking up.
‘I can’t see nothing.’
something there. I saw it myself.’
But Melanie’s voice was not so assured now as she realised that she couldn’t see anything either from this vantage point.
‘I was on the street when I saw a little blond head up there. You’d better check, just to be on the safe side.’
Des sighed heavily. He had everyone on his back. The contractors were useless; everything was going wrong, he was weeks behind his schedule. None of the drawings matched and the steel was late as usual. Now, on top of everything else, he had some silly bird telling him there was a kid in the building he was about to knock down.
They were surrounded by men and Des knew they were all enjoying the light relief. Melanie was growing confused. Suppose it had just been a trick of the light?
‘I’m sure I saw something . . .’
A small man with green eyes in a dark-tanned face volunteered: ‘I’ll go up and look, Des. Keep the young lady happy, eh?’
He nodded and sighed. What he wouldn’t give for a few hours in the bookie’s, a wad of cash in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other. The green-eyed man disappeared into the skeleton of the building. Des had a quick shufti at the girl’s breasts before meeting her cynical eyes.
‘Had your look, you old perve?’
The other men laughed and tried not to do the same thing.
The noise died down then as they all turned to stare at the roof of the building. Melanie was nervous, wondering if she had actually seen anything and hoping she had because otherwise this lot were not going to be very happy.
She consoled herself with the fact that, whatever happened, she had done the right thing.
Regina Carlton pulled herself out of bed with difficulty. She pushed the sleeping man beside her. He grunted and turned over, emitting a loud fart in the process.
Regina pursed her lips and sighed. ‘Where the fuck did I find him?’
The words went unanswered as she glanced wearily around the chaotic room. Clothes were strewn everywhere; the place was ripe with the smell of dirty laundry and unwashed crockery. She lit a B&H and pulled the smoke deep into her lungs. The nicotine rushed straight to her brain and she sighed happily.
Scratching her sagging stomach, she wandered from the room and down the hallway to the kitchen. After putting on the kettle, she searched through the debris on the table until she found a bottle of pills. She opened the canister and popped two blue ones with a sip of water then lit herself another cigarette from the butt of the previous one. The kettle boiled and she made herself coffee, sniffing the milk suspiciously before abandoning it and settling for black.
Walking back into the hall, she opened her kids’ bedroom door.
Michaela, aged five, was still asleep, her golden hair spread over the dirty pillowcase. Hannah, ten months, was lying awake in her cot, a soaking nappy filling the room with the smell of ammonia and making her mother’s eyes water.
She looked towards the bed that should have held Jamie, two, and frowned. Walking back into the lounge area, she scanned the small room then went back into the kitchen, even looking under the table.
‘I’ll slaughter that little fucker!’ Her voice held anger rather than fear.
She walked back into the lounge and, pulling back a smoke-stained net curtain, scanned the area in front of her block of flats.
Coffee finished and feeling the first buzz from the Driminal she had taken earlier, Regina went back into her bedroom and pulled on a pair of jeans and a Bart Simpson sweatshirt. Dragging her hair back into a ponytail, she surveyed herself in the mirror of her dressing table.
Her eyes were dark hollows, her cheekbones lost in a face that was puffy from too much of everything, from booze to drugs to sex. Meanwhile her body was thin but sagging, from her breasts to the skin at the top of her arms.
She was twenty-five years old.
Regina went to the bed and shook the man awake.
‘Fuck off, will ya? I’m trying to sleep.’
She looked down at him and felt nothing. Not even annoyance. Lighting up another cigarette, she went in to the girls and woke Michaela up by slapping her behind through the quilt cover.
‘Sort Hannah out and make a cuppa, love.’
Michaela sat up immediately.
‘You seen Jamie?’