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Also by A.J. Cross

Title Page


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three


Also by A.J. Cross

The Dr Kate Hanson mysteries






The Will Traynor forensic mysteries


* available from Severn House


A.J. Cross

This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

First world edition published in Great Britain and the USA in 2021

by Severn House, an imprint of Canongate Books Ltd,

14 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1TE.

Trade paperback edition first published in Great Britain and the USA in 2022

by Severn House, an imprint of Canongate Books Ltd.

This eBook edition first published in 2021 by Severn House,

an imprint of Canongate Books Ltd.

Copyright © A.J. Cross, 2021

All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. The right of A.J. Cross to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-9037-5 (cased)

ISBN-13: 978-1-78029-768-2 (trade paper)

ISBN-13: 978-1-4483-0506-3 (e-book)

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is purely coincidental.

This eBook produced by

Palimpsest Book Production Limited,

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland


Friday 30 November. 4.30 p.m.

Lugging her stuffed briefcase, the blonde woman emerged from her office building and headed across the darkened car park, head lowered against misting rain. Raising her key fob, she hurried across pooled tarmac to the grey Mercedes. Recalling that the boot was filled with boxes of books her mother had asked her to drop off at a charity shop, she diverted to the passenger door, opened it, dumped the heavy briefcase on the seat and paused, unsure now whether to go back inside to check her desk. Norm, her boss, was still there. If he saw her, he would probably give her something else to do. Or, worse, invite her for an after-work drink. She went quickly around the car, got inside. Wiping rain from her face with gloved hands, she backed out of her space and headed across the half-empty car park to the exit.

A sudden gap in traffic along the dual carriageway towards her, a flash of headlights, a quick handwave and she joined the steady flow of vehicles heading for the traffic island, where she became part of the downward surge past the mosque on the right. Continuing steadily on to the large intersection some way ahead, she saw the lights change to red, slowed and came to a stop. Tired, irritated by the incessant whup-whup of the windscreen wipers, she flicked them off and glanced at the bulging designer briefcase on the passenger seat. If she didn’t have all she needed, next week was shaping up to be a total dis—

The passenger window exploded. Glass fragments, rain and wind struck her face, her hair. Two gloved hands appeared. One grasped the briefcase, the other holding something black, metallic. On autopilot, she reached for the briefcase, recoiled at an agonizing blow to her left hand. Someone was shouting at her through the window. The lights changed to green. A car hooted somewhere behind her. Those in front were already crossing the interchange. Getting into gear on the second attempt and releasing the handbrake, she drove, wind and rain hitting her face and a sensation of something oozing inside her glove each time she moved the steering wheel.

Reaching her house, she got out of the car, walked to her front door, unlocked it, went inside and stood. The silence was deafening. Letting her coat fall from her shoulders, she brushed rain from her face with her gloved hands, picked up the house phone, stared at the numbers on the keypad and looked up at her reflection in the mirror, a swathe of something dark across her face. The three numbers came to her. Feeling more oozing as she removed the glove from her right hand, she tapped the numbers. Her call was picked up.

‘I-I want to report an-an attack. On my car. I’m bleeding.’


Monday 3 December. 6.30 p.m.

Detective Inspector Bernard Watts had on his listening face. Behind it, he was wondering why it was that every time he was inside this office, the tone of the man behind the desk conveyed that he, Watts, was personally responsible for whatever crime or misdemeanour was under discussion. He flexed his shoulders, shifted on his chair. He hadn’t yet spoken so it was hardly a discussion. Brophy, elevated to superintendent, now a fixture at headquarters, was staring at him.

‘Six attacks on stationary cars. All in November. All in the same area and zero investigative progress on any of them.’

Brophy’s lips compressed. His eyes fixed on Watts’ face. ‘I know what you’re thinking.’

Watts started a slow count. Brophy’s mind-reading tendencies made him more wearing than usual.

‘You’re thinking I should be saying this to officers local to that inner-city area.’ He reached for several very slim files. ‘Think again. As of ten minutes ago, all

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