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AJ Campbell

Copyright © AJ Campbell 2021

The moral right of AJ Campbell to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

ISBN 978-1-8381091-1-0

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author, except for the use of quotations in a book review. Nor is it to be otherwise circulated in any form, or binding, or cover other than that in which it is published without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

This novel is entirely a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents portrayed are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events or localities is entirely coincidental.

Cover design © Tim Barber, Dissect Designs 2021

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As a member of The AJ Campbell Readers Club, you will always be the first to know about my upcoming book launch promotions, get sneak previews of my book covers and receive free downloads of my work. Upon joining, all new members will receive a copy of Choices – a FREE short story, exclusive to club members.

See the back of the book for details on how to join. I look forward to welcoming you personally.


For Andy

P A R T1



The day Marc disappears, I’m running up the steps back into work when I see him barge out of the automatic double doors like a prisoner trying to escape. I don’t recognise him at first. The hood of his parka covers his head as if protecting him from a storm. My first thought is that the man must be baking in this June afternoon sunshine. I stop abruptly and do a double take. ‘Marc! What’re you doing here?’

His eyes are fixed firmly on his feet as if scared that he’ll fall if he dares to look elsewhere. He rushes past me, and his small holdall, thrown over his shoulder, bashes against my arm. It knocks me off balance. I’m carrying a Costa, and coffee spills out over the lid and dribbles down my shirt sleeve. Damn, it’s hot. I turn and watch as his urgency launches him down the steps two at a time. He marches off left towards the main road, turning the corner at the funeral directors.

Puzzled, I carry on into the police station, delivering the latte to Leo, one of my colleagues who works the front desk. ‘Happy birthday,’ I sing over the hum of officers talking on phones and tapping away on keyboards.

He looks up from his screen and laughs. ‘My favourite afternoon treat,’ he says, picking up his present. ‘You’re going to heaven, Eva Barnes.’

I grin at how fitting his friendly expression and stocky frame are for facing the increasing numbers of crime victims we encounter every day. Leo’s like the station’s guard dog. An Alsatian – courageous and loyal, but boy, don’t get on the wrong side of him. I wipe small beads of sweat from my forehead. ‘It’s a scorcher out there again this afternoon.’

‘You are coming for birthday drinks with us all later, aren’t you?’ he asks. ‘My shout.’

‘Busy, sorry. I’m off home soon.’

His bottom lip droops like the dog who didn’t get the bone. ‘You’re always busy.’ He shouts across at the other workers, ‘Eva’s not coming for birthday drinks.’ Several heads look over at me, directing a roll of eyes or downturned lips my way.

‘What was that man doing in here? The one with the holdall,’ I ask.

‘Parka boy?’

‘Marc O’Sullivan?’


‘What did he want?’

‘Fancy this. He came in here and said he’s leaving home, and when his family report him missing, he doesn’t want to be found.’


‘Turner spoke to him but reported that the guy seemed the full ticket, so logged the incident and off he went. Adamant, he was. Married with three kids too. Can you believe that?’

‘No, I can’t,’ I say, tapping the desk with my fingers, ‘because he and his wife are our close friends. And as far as I’m aware, they are very happily married.’

I charge back outside, following the direction Marc took in the vain hope that I can catch up with him. It’s the beginning of rush hour, and the usual surge of commuters heading towards the Underground packs the streets. I guess that’s where he’s aiming. Or maybe he’s thinking of taking British Rail somewhere? I zigzag my way through the crowds, searching, trying to spot him through the flow of hurrying bodies. There he is, by a bin, searching through his holdall. Stepping sideways onto the road, I follow the double red lines, quickening my pace. I cough on the exhaust fumes from the heavy traffic as black cabs and red buses sweep past. I see him zip up the holdall and dart into the Tube station.

Breaking into a jog, I follow him, hindered by the swarms of people desperate to get home. There he is, heading towards an escalator. I hop on too, sliding into the left-hand line so I can get to the bottom as fast as the crowds will allow. My shirt is sticking to my back like a second skin, the intense late-afternoon heat rare for this time of year. As I step off, I cough again with the potent smell of rush hour chaos and grinding train brakes. I can no longer see him. Am I too late? Has he taken the Victoria line north or south?

I try the north. Bingo. There he is, waiting to board the next Tube heading to Walthamstow Central. I work my way through the wilting commuters, apologising, ignoring the tuts

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