It’s three weeks (and two days) until The Leaden Heart is published in the UK. A month after that and it’ll be available everywhere on ebook.
Not long at all.
Of course I want you to feel full of anticipation. So here’s a snippet to whet your appetite. And remember, the cheapest places to pre-order are Hive and Speedy Hen, and both offer free postage.
And don’t forget the book trailer..
‘The Smiths,’ Reed began.
‘I’ve never come across them before,’ Harper said. ‘But I want a long talk with them now.’
This was Tom’s patch, Billy thought. He was supposed to know what was going on. That was his job.
‘Let’s talk to Hester,’ he said. ‘She might be able to tell us something.’
But the blind was down on the shop door. No notice to announce a closing. Reed peered through the window and drew in his breath.
‘What is it?’
‘The shop’s a mess. Things strewn all over the floor. I’ll go in the back way,’ Reed said.
Through the ginnel and into the yard. He tapped on the door. No answer, but the knob turned in his hand.
‘Hester?’ he said quietly. She wasn’t in the office; he climbed the stairs. The door to the flat was open. No one in the living room or kitchen. He heard a quiet cry and stiffened, waiting until it came again. The bedroom.
The curtains were closed, the room stifling in the heat. He could make out her shape, lying on the bed.
‘Hester, it’s Billy. What’s happened?’
She turned her head. There was just enough light to make out the bruises on her face.
‘What’s been going on?’ he asked, but she looked at him with empty eyes.
Downstairs, he unlocked the front door.
‘You’d better come in, Tom. This has become real police business.’
It took two cups of tea to draw out the story. Harper listened, letting Billy ask the questions. He was the brother-in-law. Even if she barely knew him, they were related.
‘Two men came in,’ she said. Her voice was shaky and frightened. ‘It was just after half-past nine, I remember the church bell ringing. One of them pulled down the blind on the door and locked it.’
‘What did you do?’ Reed asked quietly. He sat on the other side of the table, holding her hands.
‘I asked what they thought they were doing. They said they owned the place and wanted me out by Saturday. One of them started kicking things over. When I told him to stop, the other one hit me.’ She lifted her fingers to her face.
‘What else did they say?’
‘If anything of mine was still here on Saturday night, they’d put it out on the pavement.’ She lifted her head, looking from one of them to the other. ‘And if I tried to stop them, it would be worse for me. Then he hit me again and again, and they left. I…’ The words faded and she sobbed again. ‘I came up here. I didn’t want anyone to see. Not like this, right after the funeral.’
‘I’ll make sure the beat constable keeps a close eye on the shop,’ Harper promised. ‘What did the men look like?’
‘Big, the pair of them. They could have been brothers. Both had dark hair, parted in the middle.’ She closed her eyes. ‘I won’t ever be able to forget them.’
Could have been brothers. Billy looked at Harper. A small nod.
‘How old do you think they were?’ Reed tried to coax out the information gently.
‘I don’t know. Not very.’ Her voice wavered as she pictured them. ‘Thirty? Somewhere round there. The one who hit me was smiling when he did it.’
She looked drained. Her husband’s death had left her with nothing inside. No reserves. Now this. The men had picked their time well. Threats and a beating when she was at her lowest.
‘Is your rent paid? Harper asked.
‘Until the end of the month. Charlie took care of it before he….’ She couldn’t bring herself to say it. Everything was too raw, just waiting beneath the surface ‘It’s in the rent book.’
‘We’ll make sure they can’t do anything.’
Billy could see Tom had more questions, dozens of them. He made a small gesture with his fingers: let them wait.
‘I’ll stay here,’ Reed told him. ‘Clean everything up and make sure she’s fine.’