Special Extract of the Novel
‘What do you see when you look at me, Catherine?’
Again he starts with the mind games. ‘It’s Detective Inspector Moore, Lord Redthorn,’ I say. ‘And when I look at you, I see a cunning, manipulative, callous individual.’
He smiles at me. Even his eyes are smug. I want to slap his face. Very hard. If we were alone here in Interview Room Three, I would succumb to the urge. But as an officer of the law I uphold it . . .
Even when it means letting a shit like Nicholas Redthorn win.
‘Do you see that?’ he asks me.
‘Yes. I do.’
‘Liar,’ he throws back.
Nicholas Redthorn is the embodiment of suave. Elegant, always attired in expensive suits with silk ties and crisp shirts to match their bespoke cuts. His skin is a deep tan, his hair black onyx strands brushing the collar of his shirt, slick, exposing the striking masculine features of his face.
Oh yes, Nicholas Redthorn is a handsome stylish man of breeding. Exceptionally English. Fantastically rich. He is magnetic, charming, could so easily tempt the most beautiful and innocent of women . . . to their deaths.
Detective Constable Walker looks at me as I sit back down at the table. She’s young. Learning. Still green with it. So I’ll forgive her the fact she is trembling beneath Redthorn’s eclipsing shadow. I understand. He is a big man beneath his light grey three-piece. Tall. Athletic.
I stare at him as I push the crime scene photograph across the table. It shows twenty-seven-year-old Justine Davies, her beautiful black skin ruined, her loveliness lost to the beating that took her life almost five months ago. ‘What did Justine do to deserve such a fate, My Lord?’
He doesn’t look at the photograph. ‘I have no idea, Catherine.’
‘I think you do.’
He leans forward and his aura hits me like a searing wind, caressing my skin. Redthorn’s eyes are a riveting blue, a sea set to storm; virtually indigo they are so endless. A small frown gathers between his thick brows. He’s debating. Wonders why I am not in awe of him.
Is the misogynist coming out to play, I wonder?
‘I think you lost control with Justine,’ I push on. ‘Snapped. Just like you did with Natalie Edwards.’ I place Natalie’s photograph down next to Justine’s before him. The woman’s face is unrecognisable in the shot.
His nostrils flare, eyes narrowing. ‘I didn’t hurt Natalie or Justine. I couldn’t. To do such a thing to them would haunt me forever. They were both beautiful inspiring women with endless lives ahead of them. To know they have been denied the chance to live those lives out to their conclusion is horrific to me—it saddens me to my soul.’
‘And they were both your lovers, let’s not forget that detail.’
He sits back. ‘I’ve never denied we found pleasure in each other.’
He says the word pleasure as if it might ignite my own.
‘And now those beautiful inspiring women are both dead,’ I remind him.
‘A devastating fact which continues to plague me, Catherine. I wish I could have been there to save them from such evil.’
I think he was there, but not to save them. ‘I—’
‘Intrigue me, Catherine. Your name is of Greek origin and means “pure”, did you know?’
‘It’s Detective Inspector Moore,’ I repeat.
‘A coarse branding,’ he says. ‘Catherine is much more fitting for you. Mistress Catherine. Doesn’t that title have a ring to it?’
His voice is full of self-assurance, rounded by the educated flair of his aristocratic heritage. Redthorn is a product of English nobility and eastern promise. His great-grandfather found the love of his life in India during the British Raj when Queen Victoria was its empress and Britannia ruled the waves.
‘What happened to Natalie, My Lord?’
‘I don’t know.’
I watch his body language, expecting a cross of the arms at least. Nothing.
‘And I did say I prefer you use the title of Mr when addressing me, Catherine.’
‘Yes, you did.’ I smile. ‘So did Natalie disappoint you in some way, My Lord?’
He sighs. ‘Never.’
‘Then why did your love affair with her end?’
‘We didn’t have a love affair.’
‘So it was just sex?’
‘Much more, Catherine. Why, are you jealous?’ he purrs.
Shithead. ‘She was your lover, sir—’
‘I said we found pleasure in each other—’
‘Is that why you killed her? Because the pleasure ceased?’
‘I didn’t kill her.’
‘Is that what happened with Justine, too, the pleasure ceased for you? Boredom?’
‘Never. Justine chose to leave me.’
‘I never asked her.’
‘Did her leaving make you angry?’
He laughs. ‘I wasn’t angry. I would never force a woman to stay with me, Catherine.’
‘Never. To force is to demand of another something they are not willing to give. It is in the giving without force true pleasure is found.’
‘A successful businessman and a poet; you are a man of many talents, My Lord.’
He leans on the table, facing me head on. His aftershave caresses my air; cedar and orange are in there somewhere. ‘Many,’ he purrs. A smile teases the corners of his mouth.
This close I can see the face of his expensive watch, backed by a wrist brushed by black hair. Redthorn can afford a herd of lawyers to talk for him here. He’s hired none. Arrogant killers love to hear the sound of their own voice. ‘Let’s talk about—’
‘Your eyes—so grey, like clouds preceding a coming storm.’ He exhales. ‘I find them entrancing.’
‘Did Justine have grey eyes, too?’ I veer back to the point in hand.
‘No. They were brown, like pools of melted chocolate. And Natalie’s were the brightest emeralds. Her eyes betrayed every emotion she had. They were true windows into her soul. There are shutters over your eyes, Catherine. It intrigues me who looks out from behind them.’
The door opens and Detective Chief Inspector Phillips pops his head around it. My boss looks pissed off. ‘Moore, a word.’
I follow him out. The air in the corridor has movement, unlike the interview room, which oppresses, so full of testosterone and arrogance. ‘Yes, gov?’
‘His alibi checks out for the night Natalie Edwards died.’
‘Don’t tell me, some woman backs it up?’
‘Over twenty of them do. Redthorn was at the party at the Croft Hotel.’
‘That hotel is only twenty minutes from Natalie’s home, sir. It was a busy charity event. Redthorn is striking, but anyone can disappear in those get-togethers. He could have called on her, killed her and dumped her before anyone missed him—’
‘Get him out of here.’
‘We have nothing on him, Cathy.’
‘He had a sexual relationship with both victims.’
‘Redthorn gave up that information. He confirmed to us his relationship with Natalie Edwards ended three years ago—’
‘And she’s had three relationships since dating Redthorn.’
He believes the shithead? ‘But he admitted Justine was with him less than ten months ago. They spent Christmas together!’ John Phillips is a good man. I respect him. But his instincts are far below the mark on Redthorn.
‘And we have nothing else to connect him to her since then.’
‘Redthorn wants to possess a woman completely, gov. The line where that possession stops is blurred.’
His shakes his head. ‘This is the third time you’ve pulled Redthorn in,’ he tells me.
‘Give me more time to question him.’
‘We have no reason to question him.’
‘Get Redthorn out of this station right now. And then go home.’
‘Take a long weekend. Do it, Detective Moore.’ I watch him walk away, the need to beat the crap out of something bubbling as I walk back into the interview room.
DC Walker is giggling, practically crawling over the table to be in Redthorn’s grace. He leans back in his chair with his arms behind his head, its weight resting in the cradle of his hands. The suit is under pressure, outlining his thick biceps, the shirt the expanse of his chest. That smile . . . what a serpent.
His eyes fix on mine. ‘You’re free to go, sir,’ I say as I gather my papers and the photographs of dead women everybody else seems to have forgotten but me.
‘So soon?’ he queries. ‘And I had a bet here with Caroline you’d come at me with handcuffs this time.’
Redthorn stands. I’m small before his six-three frame. I hand the case file to DC Walker. ‘I’ll see you out.’
‘I should know the way by now.’ He turns and offers his hundred-watt smile to my comrade. ‘Nice to have met you, Caroline.’
‘And you, Lord Redthorn.’
She needs a reality slap, or to look in that file at what Mr Suave here can do when he’s angry. ‘This way.’
He follows in my wake and I sense his shadow, its intensity like a blanket upon me. Its caress trying to make me stumble . . . but it won’t.
‘I adore the colour of your hair,’ he says. ‘It’s like a fiery sunset. But you should wear it down. I bet it reaches all the way to your waist.’
My red hair does, but its colour is enough of a statement. It stays in a ponytail or bun.
The hairs rise on my nape.
‘Do you have Irish in your blood, Catherine?’
Redthorn is way too close to me. I see the exit door leading to the station’s main entrance ahead and slip to the side. He passes me before he realises, then stops. I look up at him. The man is a monster before me.
‘Goodbye, Lord Redthorn.’ I turn to go. He clasps my arm, the imprint of his heat through my cotton blouse unsettling me. There’s no option but to look at him. His face is flawless. So smooth. Cut precisely from masculine cloth. Not a shimmer of stubble. ‘Let go.’
‘Let go of me, sir.’
He stares into my eyes, a blackening in his, the orbs swirling with his interest. ‘Such anger. Transform it into passion and you’d burn me to ash.’
I snatch my arm away.
‘Until we meet again, Detective Moore.’ He walks away. The weight of his aura finally releases me. He greets his girlfriend in the entrance, a tall and slender woman in a blood red coat. She gives him a chaste kiss on the cheek and I just know she’s left a crimson smudge against his skin.
Tala Eklund. Snowy hair, skin almost the same. No career we found, but Redthorn’s arm candy for nine years.
It must be love because she has been his main alibi for both murders. I can’t say if her belief in the man is because of love or naïvety. She is a cold fish of a woman.
And she is a liar protecting a murderer.