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No One I Knew

A J McDine

Copyright © 2021 by A J McDine

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55




About the Author

Also by A J McDine

Also by Cherry Tree Publishing

Chapter One


I closed my eyes and stretched out in the chair, enjoying the warmth of the late afternoon sun on my face and the delicious buzz from three glasses of champagne drunk in quick succession.

Five minutes’ shuteye wouldn’t hurt. I’d worked slavishly all day, mixing marinades and tossing salads, tenderising steaks, spearing lamb and peppers onto kebab sticks, and making my signature dessert - a beautiful raspberry and passion fruit pavlova, oozing with whipped cream and sticky meringue. I’d sorted drinks and nibbles, swept the patio, cleaned the downstairs loo and lugged the gas barbecue out of the garage. I’d played the perfect hostess and now I was knackered and a little bit pissed and I bloody deserved forty winks.

The soft hum of bees on the wisteria that crept across the back of the house and the burble of the river at the bottom of the garden washed over me, the sounds as soporific as any sedative, lulling me to sleep.

I opened one eye. My husband, Stuart, was regaling our best friends Bill and Melanie with a story about the dormice he’d found while monitoring a new site earmarked for housing. Melanie listened intently, her head cocked to one side and her slender fingers curled around the stem of her champagne flute. Bill lounged next to her, his arm hooked over the back of the rattan sofa, his legs loosely crossed. He caught my eye, and I glanced at Stuart and fluttered my hand in front of my mouth, feigning a yawn. He shot me an amused look - Stuart could bore the pants off a nun when he started wittering on about his precious bloody dormice - then tipped the rest of the champagne into his glass and mouthed ‘cheers’ to me.

Satisfied our guests were happy, I closed my eyes again and concentrated on the thrum of the bees and the murmur of the river and the soft drone of Stuart’s voice. I was a whisper away from oblivion when I felt a sudden chill. Stuart loomed over me, blocking out the sun.

‘Have you seen the kids?’ he said.

I waved a hand towards the lawn at the side of the house. ‘They’re playing croquet, aren’t they?’

I’d bought him the croquet set as a joke the first Christmas we’d moved to Stour House. It was supposed to be ironic. To show that although we were now the proud owners of a £1.2 million Grade II listed riverside house, we weren’t the type of people who played croquet on the lawn. We were still unaffected, unpretentious. We were still us.

‘No. I just checked.’

I stretched and stifled a yawn. ‘They’ve probably gone inside to watch TV.’

‘I’ve checked inside, too. They’re not there either.’

My tongue felt furry, and I reached for the jug of water on the table, filled my empty champagne flute and swirled the water around my mouth like mouthwash before gulping it down. I could feel the beginnings of a headache pulsating behind my right temple.

‘They must be in the den,’ I said, pulling myself to my feet.

Stuart’s face cleared. ‘Oh yes, I’d forgotten the den. I’ll have a look.’

Melanie jumped up as I began clearing plates.

‘Let me help. You’ve worked so hard today. It was delicious, Cleo. Everything was perfect.’

I smiled. Perfection was what I strived for: in the kitchen, at work, in life. ‘Thank you,’ I said, with a demure nod of the head. I handed Melanie the stack of dirty plates. ‘The dishwasher’s empty.’

I sat in Melanie’s place and gave Bill’s knee a brisk pat. ‘I know we’re supposed to be off duty, but we need to talk about the annual figures.’

Bill groaned. ‘Christ Cleo, do you ever switch off? It’s five o’clock on a Sunday afternoon. Can’t it wait until the morning?’

‘We’re due to see the accountant at ten. I wanted to go through the numbers with you before he arrives.’

He rubbed his face, then frowned. ‘Didn’t you say Sheila was popping over with the file?’

‘I expect she’s had another crisis with her mum. Poor Sheila. Looks like you’re off the hook.’

He grinned and looked hopefully at the empty champagne bottle. ‘I don’t suppose there’s any more where that came from?’

‘I expect I can run to another bottle. But,’ I waggled a finger at him, ‘it’s on the understanding that you get to the office by eight tomorrow so we can go through the accounts before the meeting.’

He touched his temple. ‘Yes, boss.’

I filled a tray with glasses, headed through the patio doors to the kitchen and plonked it on the worktop. Retracing my steps outside, I almost collided with Stuart on the patio. He was red-faced and breathing heavily, as if he’d sprinted from the kids’ den under the apple tree on the far side of the garden.

‘Nate was there,’ he said, his hand gripping my shoulder. ‘But there was no sign of Immy. I can’t find her anywhere.’

I shook my head and removed his hand. ‘Let me check. You never look properly.’

Nate was sitting cross-legged on the floor in the wooden teepee-like camp playing with the Lego Star

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