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Missing (sorry still with grim nasties)

Suzanne rang DI Jane Tripp. There was no denying the sigh on the other end of the line. She apologised and told the inspector what had happened.

“I’ll send DC Myers over to have a look. We don’t want to have the crime scene techs out unnecessarily, but…” There was a sound like the snort of air through nostrils. “Just in case don’t handle it any more than you have to–you know don’t go re-wrapping it or whatever. Where is it now?”

“In the garden on the table. It looks like it might rain. Shall I put a bag over it or something?”

“NO! Don’t do that. Have you got a big, very big, plastic box? You need one that will definitely not touch the parcel at all. Either that or a big umbrella, like a golf one. The thing is, anything you put over it can leave deposits or erase evidence.”

“I’ve already carried it in the house, stuck it on the floor in the kitchen and then taken it outside.”

“I know. Can’t be helped. Just leave it alone if you can. Unless it starts to rain, just leave it. Oh, and if it is a dead rabbit, make sure you don’t let any crows on it.”

“Oh, yuk. Really.”

“Yes, really. If they get a hint of dead flesh they’ll be down on it.”

“That’s disgusting.”

“I would say that the whole thing is pretty disgusting, but if we are to have any chance at all of finding out where it came from and who was behind it, we need it disturbed as little as possible. Billy will be with you in about half an hour. He’s on his way now.”

The two women stood in the garden, scanning the sky as rain clouds built over the river. Sure enough, there was the harsh sound of a bird and two dark shapes peered down from the neighbours’ television aerial. “How did they know?” Suzanne said.

“Amazing isn’t it? Anyway, we’ll have to just stay here. They won’t come down if we’re here,” Lucy said. “Have you had a good look at it? The thing.” She pointed at the grim heap on the picnic table.

“I didn’t look that closely. It’s horrible. It’s wet. The eyes are cloudy, the one I could see, anyway. There’s not much blood, just dirty water and the fur is soggy. It’s boiled, I tell you. Like in the film.”

“Like your shower curtain.”

“What?”

“The shower curtain slashing was from a film. The bunny boiling was in a film. Whoever’s doing this is determined to freak you out and they’re relying on stuff that everybody finds disturbing. It’s not kids this. It’s too sophisticated.”

“But, does that mean it’s someone who knows me?”

“I suppose so but why are you asking that?”

“You know I like films, the cinema and videos. We’ve been together plenty of times. If I was someone who only watched soaps or Strictly or that Jungle thing, then I might not get the connection. But because I have always liked films…”

“So, I guess we have to say, yes, it’s someone who knows you fairly well. That brings us to the next question. Who wants to scare and upset you this much?”

“Ginny. Ginny knows us both really well.”

“Yes, but why would she do this?”

“Why has she buggered off without telling us and why has she put the house on the market without a word?”

“It doesn’t make any sense. We’ve been mates forever. We love each other.”

“Do we? This is not the act of someone who loves you.”

“No, I know it’s not. That’s why it can’t be Ginny.”

“If it’s not Ginny then who the hell is it?”

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Missing

The short walk home was silent except for the click clack of Lucy’s heels on the flagstones. As they passed through the front gate Suzanne said. “You’re staying, aren’t you?”

“Do you want me to?”

“Yes, of course. Cancel the place you’re in and come and stay with me.”

“I didn’t come to you because there was a risk, well there still is a risk that bloody Steve will come round. I don’t know where he is right now, but you can bet he’ll be planning some trouble.”

“What are you going to do about all of that?”

“Soon as possible, I’m putting things in place to get a divorce. I have to tell the kids first though. I don’t want to do that by phone. I need to go and see them.”

“Well, I don’t care if he does come round. We’ll see him off between us. Why don’t you ask the kids to come here? It’s neutral territory, which might make it easier for them.”

Lucy leaned to wrap her arms around Suzanne’s shoulders. “Thanks, love. You know what, that’d be great. Can I ask them to come tomorrow?”

“Anytime is fine by me. They can stay over. One of them will have to go on the bed settee in the study but it’s comfortable enough. That way we can make them a meal and you won’t have to worry about timing. What about the girls?”

“They’ll be fine with Carl. I wouldn’t want them around at a time like this. It’ll be upsetting for them, anyway. Say what you like about Steve, and believe me I could say a lot, but the girls think he’s great.”

Right, that’s one thing organised. For now, I’ll make us something to eat and you see if you can arrange that. Anytime is fine, but I reckon the sooner the better.”

“Brilliant. Oh!”

“Oh what?”

“You’ve got a parcel, there look, in the porch. Were you expecting anything?”

“No. It’s probably for one of the neighbours. You know what these delivery people are like.”

Suzanne leaned to pick up the brown paper parcel and peered at the label. She raised her eyebrows and passed it across to Lucy. ”Hang on to that while I get the door unlocked.”

“Well, it’s addressed to you,” Lucy said. “Wonder what it is. It’s quite heavy, a bit squashy. Intriguing. Unless you’ve ordered something and forgotten.”

“Don’t be daft. I’m not doolally yet. I haven’t ordered anything. Stick it on the hall table while I put the kettle on. Or, shall we just get straight into the wine? This has all been a bit stressful and we need to regroup. What the hell is going on with that agent and the house? We left her there but now I’m beginning to wonder if that was the right thing to do.”

“She had that letter and the door key.”

“True. But none of it feels right, I could do with a drink.”

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Missing

Ruth Bates was irritated as Suzanne followed her from room to room. Though she took measurements with a laser device, it seemed they were always in each other’s way and the little bathroom downstairs was so small that Ruth was effectively trapped inside with Suzanne watching from the hallway.

“You don’t need to follow me around,” the estate agents said. “I can just get this done and then I’ll let you know. Though, I am not sure whether it’s okay for me to leave you in here. You’re not the owner after all.”

“What do you think we’re going to do?”

“It’s not that. I’m sure you’re not going to do anything but I have signed to say that I’ll leave the house secure and if you are here I’m not sure what position that puts me in. It’s a question of insurance.”

There wasn’t a lot of point in being awkward and it occurred to Lucy that this woman might be able to help them.

“When you signed the papers did our friend come into your office?”

“No, I have not met Mrs Salt. Everything has been done either online, by telephone or by mail. We had to have proper hard copies signed to give us access.”

“Great. Can you tell us what address you used?”

“How do you mean?”

“What address did you send the documents to for signature?”

“Oh no, I don’t think I can tell you that.”

“Why not?”

“Data protection.”

“Balls.”

“Sorry.”

“That’s nonsense. Ginny is our mate. We’ve been worried about her and don’t know where she is. If you give us the address she was using we can get in touch.”

“But, I can’t possibly. You must see that.”

“Why? She’s our mate, I just told you.” Lucy said.

“But if she doesn’t want you to know where she is then I could be in major trouble if I tell you.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Why would she not want us to know where she is?”

“I don’t know, do I? But surely if she wanted you to know where she is she would have told you.”

There was no answer to this logic. Lucy and Suzanne stared at each other and tears bloomed in Lucy’s eyes.

“Come on, let’s go back to mine,” Suzanne said. “Let’s just go home and have a rethink.”

They turned and walked from the house together. “What have we done?” Suzanne said.

“How do you mean?”

“What that woman just said. If Ginny wanted us to know where she is she would have told us. She hasn’t, so she doesn’t want us to know. What have we done that she doesn’t want to tell us where she is?”

“No, it’s not that she doesn’t want us to know. That’s not right.” Lucy said.

“Well, what then?”

“Maybe she can’t. Maybe wherever she is, it’s not possible for her to let us know, either, because she’s not physically able to or because she is trying to – protect us.”

“Protect us from what?”

“I don’t know.”

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Missing

As they entered Ginny’s house, Lucy’s eyes filled with tears. She hadn’t been for a while and the sense of desertion hit her hard. “It’s cold,” she said.

“I left the heating on standby. There was no point burning energy in an empty house.” Suzanne said. “I did go round pretty thoroughly I thought but maybe you can think of somewhere I haven’t looked. I don’t suppose you know her password, do you? For the computer?”

“Yeah, I do. I’ve helped her to set up a couple of things now and then. It’s Royalnurse.”

“Of course it is. They had all been immensely proud of their service at the hospital in Liverpool and it was no surprise that Ginny still held it as a cause for pride.”

It was uncomfortable logging on to her machine. It felt like theft but it was a logical thing to do and when she came back she would surely understand.

There were a few icons on the home page. Shopping sites, a couple that had quizzes and word games and then folders which were clearly labelled. All the usual. Insurance, Car, Emergency Plumber, and on and on and one that was labelled notes. They clicked it open to find what was in effect a diary. There were no daily records of the weather but there were a few musing here and there. Notes about their outings together made them smile. They knew that she had valued their friendship but it was heartwarming to read that she had loved the trips and meals and theatre expeditions.

“Aw, bless her,” Lucy said as she wiped a tissue across the tears on her cheeks.

Suzanne flicked through the pages, stopping now and then to look at a picture.

“Have you noticed this?” she pointed at the lower corner of the screen. “Now and again there is just this little note, it’s not on all of them Dr B.”

“Well, she had lots of appointments, didn’t she?”

“Yes, she did but her Doctor is Patel the same as mine. The consultant at the hospital is that woman.”

“Doctor Lawson?”

“Yes, that’s it. This is only recent and it’s every couple of weeks. I wonder that it is?”

“She didn’t say anything to me about seeing a new person. This makes me wonder all over again if she had something else wrong with her that she didn’t tell us about.”

“But if you look some of them have ‘in’ beside them and some have ‘out’. What the hell can that mean?”

“I haven’t a clue. Go back and see when that started.”

It had been for the past couple of months, every ten days or so. One record would show ‘in’ and the next ‘out’.

The last day time that they had any contact with her was a Dr B day with the note. ‘out’

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Missing

It seemed very odd that the crime scene technicians were dressed in protective suits and shoe covers. When Suzanne told the sergeant that she’d had a shower he heaved a huge sigh and closed his eyes. “Oh great. Didn’t they tell you not to do that?”

“Well, no.” As she answered, Suzanne, blushed to the roots of her hair. “They had told her, hadn’t they?” Beng so tired and confused by everything happening around her she simply wanted a shower and so she had one. She had been thoroughly stupid. She’d cleaned the bath and the wash basin and taken the shower curtain down. Sitting in the tub holding the shower head in her hand she’d managed but of course, she had now effectively destroyed any evidence that there might have been.

One of the technicians trudged upstairs with a small hard case but the rest of them turned and went back to their van where she could hear them grumbling. “We’ll dust for prints and swab around but it’s a waste of time,” the sergeant said. It should have been made clear that you were to stay out of there.”

“It’s my fault. I am so sorry,” Suzanne said. “It’s been a really stressful time and honestly I just didn’t think it through.”

“I’ll submit the stuff to the lab but I reckon the best thing for you to do is to try and put this down to experience, Mrs Lythgoe. It’s going nowhere.”

When he’d gone, she sat at the kitchen table and lowered her head onto her crossed arms. “What a total moron, I am. What a brain dead idiot. What was I thinking?”

Lucy sat beside her eyes lowered, chewing at her lower lip. “I should have said something. We were both idiots. Did they take the shower curtain away?”

“Yeah, they did. The look on that sergeant’s face spoke volumes. I think I will have to try and get over this. It’s not as bad as I thought. At least now I know it was you in the kitchen. It’s even odder in some ways though. I mean who would come and just wreck the bathroom?”

“You don’t think it could just have rotted or something? You know plastic sometimes becomes a bit brittle even though it doesn’t decay totally.”!

“But that would only happen when I pulled it on, surely?”

“Hmm, I guess so. Maybe it did and you didn’t notice.”

“Possible. Oh look, let’s go to Ginny’s. We can call in B&Q on the way and I’ll find a new one and we’ll just put it down as a puzzle. I bleached everywhere, even down the drains and in the toilet. They weren’t amused. Oh, shit what a pillock I am.”

It was inevitable that Jane Tripp would ring. “What were you thinking?”

“I know, I’m so sorry. Sorry for the waste of time and for the loss of evidence and everything.”

“Well, it’s too late to do anything about it. They’ve sent the swabs through from the drains and round and about but I understand you used bleach?”

“Yep. Thorough, that’s what I am.”

“Keep me informed if anything else happens and I’ll still have a word about your friend if she hasn’t turned up by tonight. Did you find a picture?”

“I did. I sent it through. It was from Lucy’s phone.”

“I’ll keep an eye out for that. Look, I know you’re probably feeling awkward and embarrassed now but don’t. The chances of them finding anything of any help was minimal anyway and you’ve been having quite a time of it. Just try and get yourself back together.”

As she turned off her phone Suzanne told Lucy that she could detect a note of pity in the DI’s voice. “She thinks I’m a daft old bat, doesn’t she? In fairness that’s how I’ve behaved as well.”

“I know you’re not and when we find Ginny she’ll change her tune.”

“Yeah. Right.”

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Missing

As the heating clicked on and the house began to warm Suzanne went upstairs to have a shower and dress. Lucy put bacon under the grill and thawed out a couple of barm cakes and put the kettle on.

She shouted up the stairs when the bathroom door opened and she heard the clink of jars on the dressing table. “What time are the police coming round?”

“I don’t know. That detective Tripp didn’t say. She left me her number so we can ring after we’ve had our butties.”

Jane Tripp answered her mobile after a couple of rings. “I’ll try and find out for you and ring you back. Has anything else happened since I saw you last?”

“Oh, yeah. That’s another reason I rang.” It wasn’t but Suzanne realised that not mentioning the latest occurrence would seem odd.

“Right. What’s that?” Tripp wanted to know.

“My mate. You know, Lucy. Well, she’s turned up. She’s here now, she’s fine.” It didn’t seem the best idea to explain that she’d turned up in the middle of the night and scared the living daylights out of her so Suzanne fudged it a bit. “She’d had a barny with her bloke and took herself off for a bit. But, we’re just having a bit of breakfast. Oh yes, it was her that ate the chilli. She came round and helped herself. We’ve had a bit of a laugh over it. At least that’s one part of the puzzle solved.”

“Great news. I’ll make a note of that. Does she not know anything about the shower curtain?”

“No, nothing.”

“And nothing about the shower curtain?”

“God no, that wasn’t her.”

“Okay, I’ve just had an email from the crime scene team and they’ve got you pencilled in for mid-morning unless anything more urgent comes up.”

“How long will they be here?”

“Hard to say but now the puzzle about the food is solved we just need to get some swabs and prints from the bathroom. I have to say that’s an odd thing. I’m going to get one of the junior officers to trawl the computer and see if there’s been anything else like that. I have to tell you that in all honesty, it’s not going to be the highest priority, Mrs Lythgoe. The whole thing has whittled down now to just a bit of criminal damage.”

“What about Ginny, though?”

“Well yes, but that’s a different thing altogether. That’s a missing person. If you don’t have any word from her by tonight let me know and I’ll pass it on to the missing person department and they’ll have a think and see if it’s time to put out an alert and something on the websites and whatnot. Tell you what in the meantime why don’t you look out a recent picture of her in case we decide to go that way? Something full face, clear as possible.”

Suzanne turned off her phone and heaved a huge sigh. “How do you get them interested? Honestly, it feels as though they just want to do the minimum. I hate to say it and I know they’ve got a tough job and they’re short of staff and money and all of that but I’m worried sick about Ginny.”

Lucy leaned across the table to take her hand. “Listen, if they won’t do anything we will. We’ll find her.”

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Missing

“That’s just weird.” The two women were in the bathroom. Lucy held the shower curtain in both hands. She had spread it across the bath. It wasn’t exactly shredded but it was sliced over and over. At one end the plastic ring had broken leaving the edge flapping loose from the rail.

“I just don’t see how this could have happened. If it had been a cat, as you said, then surely it would just have pulled it down. It’s not a bird. I can’t imagine a bird anywhere near strong enough to do this. Not unless it was a bloody great eagle and I don’t think there are many of them in Garston.”

“No, you’re right. This just looks deliberate, as if someone’s been at it with a knife. You know how they show it over and over after the famous bit in the horror film? The one where that actress – oh what’s her name? Janet Leigh – that’s her. You know the Hitchock thing”

“I’ve never seen it, but I know what you mean. It does look a bit like that. The police are supposed to come later on. Do you think I should mention that to them?”

“You could I suppose. Or, they might see it themselves. Why are they coming?”

“Fingerprints and what have you.”

“Shit, they’ll find mine?”

“I suppose they will but then yours would have been here anyway. You’re always in and out.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Anyway even if they did it wouldn’t matter unless you’ve been a bad girl and they have you on file. Actually, it would probably be best if you give them yours. Just so they can exclude you from their enquiries.”

“Get you and the police speak.”

“I haven’t watched all those crime show for nothing.”

“Shame it doesn’t help us to find Ginny though.”

“We’ll maybe have to be more insistent that they look for her. She’s been missing a while now and nobody’s heard from her and she wasn’t in the best of health.”

“I feel like an idiot now. I said that I didn’t think she’d harm herself but – we are both coming round to thinking that might not be true.”

“I know I just said that but then I think how brave she’s been. Never wanting to cause a fuss and never complaining. Would she really just give up?”

“You know as well as I do that a great many people who do kill themselves don’t give any real clue. So it’s possible isn’t it”

They trailed back to the kitchen and made more tea, more toast and watched the day fill out. Suzanne looked across the table at her friend and smiled. “At least I’ve got you back, that’s good. I was really scared for a while there that I was going to be the last man standing.” Suddenly her eyes filled with tears that wouldn’t be held back and as she sniffed and wiped at her wet cheeks Lucy leaned and held her hand.

“It’ll be okay. It’s all going to be fine.”

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Missing

They sat in the kitchen as the darkness gave over to dull grey light. They made tea and ate toast. They cried and they held hands across the table top and they worried and wondered together.

“So, what are you going to do about Steve?” Suzanne asked.

“Oh, I’ve had it with him. I can’t believe I’ve put up with his moods and bullying for so long. He has always been too keen to lash out, usually just with his tongue, now and then with a grip just too tight on my arms, once or twice a push and just once before he slapped me across the fact. I always found excuses. I’m an idiot. I never would have believed I’d have put up with it. I disgust myself to be honest. I am appalled that I valued myself so little. It wasn’t even that I needed him for his wages and so on. I’ve got my NHS pension and the money Granda left me.”

“Why then?”

“Embarrassment, I think. When I was working it wasn’t too bad because we only saw each other at weekend and the kids needed stability so I just muddled through. Then when the kids had gone I couldn’t face telling people what I’d put up with for all those years. There I was, a specialist nurse, a professional telling people what they should do, how they should behave and my own life was just pathetic.”

“You never said. You could have told me. I had an idea and you could have come here.”

“I know, love. But I didn’t want to admit I’d made such a cock-up things. Anyway, it’s over now. I’m going to get a solicitor and start a divorce. I’ll move out. Can I stay with you until I find out how I’m fixed? I’ll be able to buy something with half the money from the house. I only need a little place. A flat would be nice. No gardening, easy to run. I might even look at one of those retirement places.”

“Oh no. You can’t. They are just God’s waiting rooms. All you do is count out the dead and demented. It’s horrible.”

“I don’t think they’re like that now. They have restaurants and hairdressers and whatnot.”

“And coach trips to garden centres. The one my mum is in is lovely but it’s too much like waiting for the inevitable. I couldn’t abide it. I would feel as though I’d given up.”

“Well you could be right but that’s for later. Tomorrow I need to find a solicitor.”

“Will you go to the police?”

“What for?”

“He hit you. That’s assault. You should report him.”

“No. I’m not doing that. I couldn’t bear the questions and the embarrassment. Think of what it would do to the kids. He’s their dad after all. No, I’m not doing that.”

“It’s your choice of course but honestly I think you ought to make him pay for what he’s done.”

“No. Not doing it. He can go and live with him bit on the side if he likes. He can bugger off and die, I just don’t care. I don’t want to see him again if I can help it.”

Suzanne sighed and shook her head but  it wasn’t her decision to make and all she could do was be supportive. Starting again at their stage of life was daunting but she would be four square behind her friend no matter what.

They sat quietly for a while. It was Lucy who broke the silence. “What about Ginny?”

“I’ve tried to get the police interested. They don’t want to know. I was lust living in hope that she’d turn up and we could move past it.”

“Where the hell can she be?”

“I haven’t a clue and I don’t know what to do now.”

“Okay. We’ll go this morning back to the house. I know you’ve already had a look but we’ll go again. There has to be something there that’ll give us an idea of what’s going on. We need to do something properly now.

“I have a horrible feeling about it. The more time that’s past the more it seems to me that she has gone away and doesn’t want to be found.” Suzanne’s eyes filled with tears. “I just have a horrible feeling that maybe she’s gone and killed herself and the next thing we hear will be that they’ve found her body. I don’t think I’ll be able to live with that.”

“I’d love to tell you that you’re wrong, love. In all honesty, I can’t because I have started thinking the same thing myself.”

“Before we do that though, we have to work out what happened to your shower curtain.”

“Oh lord, I hadn’t thought about that for a bit. The shock of finding you in the living room. All this upset. It’d slipped my mind. Come on up and have a look.”

“Maybe a cat got in, or a bird-a big bird and it panicked.”

“So where is it now? No, come on up and see. It’s horrible.”

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Missing

Chapter 15

There was nothing else to do but drive home. Suzanne had left the lights on in the living room so the house would be warm and welcoming.

Despite the early hour, she poured a glass of red wine and carried it through to the kitchen. The thought of eating, on her own, was depressing. She would freeze it and save it for when they were all back together.

At first, she didn’t notice the dish. The baguette was on the board on the worktop and there was something not right. She didn’t remember taking the end. It was something she often did. That lovely crusty bit with a chunk of cheese or just a big spread of butter but she just didn’t remember doing it with this loaf but it was gone. Still, she was stressed and having trouble concentrating so – who knew.

She cut herself a piece now and turned to the table, perhaps she’d just have a small bowl of chili, in the lounge with the tele on.

For a minute her brain wouldn’t catch up with what she was seeing. She had left three bowls ready on the table, now two were where she had left them, waiting. The third was smeared with the red sauce and around the place setting were crumbs from the bread and a scattering of Parmesan cheese.

She hadn’t done this. She knew for certain she hadn’t eaten chilli before she went out. Apart from anything else it was still cooking.

She placed the glass of wine on the table. She reached to the knife block and pulled out the heavy chef’s knife and walked back towards the hallway.

“Hello.” On some level, she knew how silly and pointless it had been to call out. Dangerous too, letting whoever was in her home know that she was there.

She had already been in the living room to pour her wine so she passed that door. At the bottom of the stairs, she paused and listened. There was a soft noise. At first, she couldn’t make out what it was. She froze, holding her breath.

Water.

There was someone in the shower.

She climbed the stairs, the knife held before her in one hand the other holding the banister rail. The bedroom doors were all closed. She never did that. She didn’t have any need, living on her own. So, she was on the landing with all the doors closed, no way to tell if anyone was in the bedrooms but then there was the sound of running water in the bathroom. She should call the police. She should get out of the house now and ring triple nine.

Her phone was downstairs in her bag. She didn’t dare turn from the closed doors and she couldn’t go down the steps backwards.

She squared her shoulders and took a deep breath. She stepped across the landing and reached out for the door handle.

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Missing

Chapter 13

There was nothing decent on the tele. Suzanne flicked through the choices on Netflix and discarded everything. She wasn’t in the mood for a comedy and didn’t want to sit through a murder or a police procedural. She told herself it wasn’t because of her worries, that was daft of course. Those sorts of things happened either to other people and you only heard it on the news, or in fiction. Though she didn’t know where Lucy and Ginny were right now, there was nothing sinister about it. It was all a huge mix-up that would be solved tomorrow when they all met up at the hospital.

She didn’t remember Ginny saying anything about going away but maybe she had. Maybe they had been told and simply forgotten. When she thought about all the events in order it had been Lucy who had started the fuss. Suzanne tried to think through all the recent weeks, had there been something? Though they were close Ginny was a private person. There had been the odd occasion in the past when she hadn’t told them she was having tests or treatments. She said it was because she didn’t want to worry them and didn’t want them to feel obliged to come with her. She could bring nothing to mind right away but, after all, she hadn’t known about this appointment. They were close but they still had their own lives, private.

As for Lucy, well that was obvious, she had stomped off because of Steve. She knew that Steve would call Suzanne and didn’t want to get her involved in a nasty row. She was sorry her friend hadn’t felt able to confide but here it was again. Private lives. It was probably how come they had been able to keep the friendship going all these years. Mutual respect.

Suzanne felt better. She felt slightly smug at how mature they all were. She made a cup of cocoa and took it up to bed with her Kindle. She was looking forward to the next day when it would all be sorted. She’d suggest a meal out after. Or maybe she should have her friends back to her house. She could put a casserole in the oven before she went to the hospital and then they could come back and have a nice meal together and laugh about the turmoil of the last few days.

When the phone woke her it was still dark. The house was silent. She felt the familiar frisson of panic this always brought as she reached for her phone and glasses on the bedside table.

Number withheld. She clicked to answer. There was silence. An open line. “Hello. Who is this? Lucy is that you? Ginny?”

She switched on the bedside lamp and pushed herself into a sitting position. “Who is this? Come on. What are you playing at? Speak if you’re going to.”

There was silence. And then faint and difficult to hear a small sound. Her name. Something that sounded very much like a sob and then nothing.”

The hairs on her arms stood on end and her stomach turned over. What the hell was that about?

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