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First pages

Prologue

Revenge. The Morse code rhythm his blood beat to these days. Sweet revenge.

There wouldn’t be a way out of it at the end for him, but that was as it should be. That was the price any father would willingly pay for the child he’d watched grow and blossom, then wither on the vine. Cut down and placed into a coffin seventy years earlier than any life expectancy chart would’ve had him believe.

The planning had consumed his time, given him purpose. There was no reason to think he would be successful. He knew full well no amount of planning would prove infallible against simple bad luck. But he’d put in the effort to give himself the best chance. To see it all the way through.

So many nights his only relief had been pictures broadcast on the inside of his eyelids until he dropped restlessly into sleep. So many plans lived out again and again in the theater of his mind.

Now, he would go through it one more time. IRL.

“In Real Life, Dad,” his daughter had said when he expressed his lack of knowledge at the phrase. Caught up in the craze of Second Life that consumed her for a term, then left her cold.

She’d laughed because he was too old to know and because it meant her secret, teenage language was fulfilling its purpose. Shutting the rest of the world out behind a wall of shrugs and puzzlement. The same way her odd style of dressing built a wall against the inappropriately aged men who would otherwise have followed her, chased her, hunted her young flesh down. Crotches that drooped loosely to the knee below cinched waists that harked a cry back to Dior.

“I’m doing it, honey,” he said under his breath as he fastened the wig in place. The extra padding would be a blessing when he ventured from the house into the freezing temperatures of a mid-winter frost. “I’m doing it for you.”

A part of his brain called out that, no, he wasn’t doing this for anybody but himself. It called out that this was a mistake, and he knew better, but the voice was weak and grew fainter every day. That voice came from the past, from a man who he hadn’t been for so long it hurt to think back that far.

He silenced the voice. There was just him, his plan, and his savage grief.

On the front doorstep, he hesitated. He took delight in the last step before he committed, extending it as long as possible. His foot held above the ground, taking an age, a lifetime, a regret, to fall and take his weight.

A man stood in the shadows, watching him. The long lens on the camera fastened around his neck betrayed its heightened ability to zoom, to focus. Raised to an eye, the night scope let in as much light as the clouded moon and pale streetlights could muster. Snap.

When the photographer attempted to retreat, his back bumped into the evergreen branch he’d hoped to hide behind. In the still of the winter’s night, the sound carried. For a moment, the man tilted his head to the side. Slowly, he ran his gaze around the property, across the drive and looked straight at the photographer—straight at him. Then his eyes passed by and carried on farther until there was nothing more to see.

The photographer raised his camera again, more offended that he hadn’t been seen than he was proud of his hiding ability. Snap.

Chapter One

Knocking at the door pulled Ngaire out of her dream. For a moment, hallucinations hung in her vision, then blew away.

What time is it?

Her clock radio in steady red light announced it was one-seventeen. In the morning?

She pushed back the covers with her feet and stood up. The drag of too little sleep made her unsteady, but she fought against it. Pulling her dressing gown over the large T-shirt she used as a nightie.

“Who is it?”

She put her eye up to a glass fisheye lens set in the middle of the door. She saw nothing, then a flick of white movement close. Too close. Ngaire jerked her head back. Whoever stood outside had placed their eye against the lens. Another foolproof safety device.

“Who is it?”

A muffled answer came through the door, but Ngaire couldn’t make out what the words. The banging began again. Loud. Insistent. She unlocked the deadbolt and turned the door handle, leaving the key chain on. A uniformed officer stood on her front step, his hand raised to knock again.

“Ngaire Blakes?”

Ngaire nodded. She still wasn’t about to unlock the door until he provided an explanation.

“I’m PC Stephens, and this is PC Bradbury.” He gestured to someone Ngaire couldn’t see through the gap. “We need you to come down to the station.”

“What for?”

“We have questions for you about a murder case.”

Ngaire closed the door so she could pull the chain free, then reopened it. Sleep was caught in the corner of her eye, and she wiped the gunk free. Her dressing gown let the cold night air breeze through to her skin, and she pulled the robe tighter across her middle.

“What murder case? Why now?”

“We’ll tell you more when you’re down at the station. Can you get dressed, please? We need to get back there pronto.”

Ngaire hesitated. She was tired, and she didn’t understand. Stephens seemed to sense her reluctance and nodded to his colleague, who moved closer in to crowd her front doorway.

“If you won’t come voluntarily, we have orders to arrest you and bring you in for questioning.”

Ngaire stepped back and tried to close the door, her pulse thumping in her neck. Arrest her? For what?

Bradbury stepped forward again and put his foot into the gap of the door. It bounced back open, and he pushed it wider.

“This will go a lot easier if you just get dressed and come with us,” he said, his tone reasonable.

Or, it would’ve been reasonable, if one weren’t woken in the middle of the night, as Ngaire had been.

“You don’t want us to pull you in there the way you’re dressed now.” He nodded at Ngaire’s robe and she pulled it tighter still. “It would be uncomfortable for everybody.”

For a moment she pouted, a point of stubbornness. She wanted to say, “I don’t care,” and make it uncomfortable for everybody. Her rational mind overrode the urge, and she pulled the door fully open.

“Have a seat, then,” she said gesturing to the lounge. “I’ll just be a couple of minutes.”

She pulled on underwear, hooked up her bra, then covered herself with a blue T-shirt and a pair of jeans. Ngaire squinted at her watch again. Should she take a jacket or a jersey? It was cold out. She pulled the jersey over her head.

Ngaire couldn’t work out what day it was for a while. Early morning, but which morning? Not the weekend. Not Monday. She settled on Tuesday after a moment’s thought, but even that felt strange to her. Not quite right.

If they kept her for long, she’d need to send a text to work. She’d found a temporary placement at a law firm, putting her degree to use while she tried to become mentally fit enough to once again be a serving detective. As the weeks stretched into months, she grew used to referring to herself as a lawyer. It didn’t grate in her mouth the way it had at first. No longer experiencing the mental disassociation between what her head wanted to say and what her mouth produced.

It was a small law firm mainly dealing with real estate settlements, private wills, and matrimonial disputes. It still wouldn’t look good if she had to call them and say she’d be late in because she was being held at the station.

And why was she being dragged to the station? What murder?

As she pulled on a pair of boots lined with possum skin against the chill of the night air, Ngaire tried to remember what the last batch of news had served up. Some political thing about positioning New Zealand within world markets, a hunter accidentally shooting a friend in the back because he thought deer now came dressed in reflective orange.

No, she couldn’t recall a murder.

Ngaire sat on the edge of the bed for a moment, her face in her hands, trying to wipe vigor into her cheeks. She’d find out soon enough.

There was an Energy chocolate bar on the bedside table. God knew why she’d put it there. It was tempting fate considering how much weight she’d put on lately, but she grabbed it and took a bite that demolished half the bar. She’d need the pick-me-up for questioning.

Two officers. Threatening arrest.

Ngaire wondered what the hell her sleeping self had got herself in for, and walked through to the lounge, demolishing the other half of the dark chocolate bar on the way.

 

The journey through Christchurch’s dark streets was over too soon. The street lights casting a glow over the rain-dappled tarseal looked beautiful at night. During the day, the water would gather in oily looking puddles, and the gray sky overhead would dull down any reflection.

Winter seemed composed entirely of gray days that never warmed through. No frosts—it wasn’t cold enough for that—but no relief from the ache of a human body living without sunlight.

They pulled into the station around the back. Ngaire waited while Officer Stephens fumbled with the bar lock to the rear door, then followed through with officer Bradbury bringing up the rear. The trek through territory so recently familiar to her was strange. She belonged and yet she didn’t. Seeing it from another point of view.

They dropped her into interview room one and left without even the offer of a hot drink. Ngaire clapped her hands together and rubbed to rid them of the cold. Even inside it would take her a solid hour to warm through. Her jersey felt like ice.

She stuck her hands into her armpits and began to feel heat returning just as the door opened again and DS Gascoigne sat down opposite her. Ngaire’s heart sank. The two officers weren’t overkill then. Something serious was going on, and it was severe enough that a sergeant sat opposite her rather than a constable.

The situation was surreal. How many times had she been in Gascoigne’s place preparing to interview a suspect or a witness? Too many for the opposite state of affairs to seem normal.

DC Redding took a seat next to Gascoigne and cleared his throat. The door to the room closed—Ngaire recognized the absence of air on her neck though she didn’t turn to look. Her heartbeat thumped in the back of her ear. Its speed increasing as the silence stretched out.

Silence was a way to gain control. The first one to break it gave in. Ngaire had sat out enough suspects to know the drill, but why was it being played on her? And so early? Although she desperately wanted to clear her throat, to shift the tickle building there, she didn’t. They could budge first. She was at enough of a disadvantage.

Redding gave first. He pulled out a notebook and nodded at Gascoigne. Ngaire coughed as soon as he did, unable to hold the high ground for too long. The more she’d told herself not to cough the more she needed to.

“Ngaire Blakes, I’m speaking to you in connection with the murder of Keelin Sinclair.”

He ran through the rest of the caution while Ngaire sat, her brain processing information, locating the victim. The name was familiar but not sparking the usual registers: not someone she’d been to school with, university, training college, not at any station she’d worked.

Her counselor. Shit.

Keelin Sinclair had been the counselor the police service referred her to in the aftermath of her attack. She’d attended two of the mandated sessions, talking bullshit and smiling the whole way. Ngaire stopped going when it seemed Keelin saw straight through her defense mechanisms. When Gascoigne forced her to start again, it was through her current psychologist, John.

Keelin was dead? Ngaire felt a pang of loss for Keelin’s open face, her cheeky grin.

“I’ll start by asking where you were on the night of the 20th June?”

Redding had gone formal on her, which wasn’t a good sign. He wasn’t attempting to build rapport, just asking straight up questions. There was a possibility this was because he knew Ngaire was as well-versed as him in protocol and process, but a more striking alternative was he was hiding behind the language because he knew this would end up being played in court. Direct questions played well in a court room. Especially if there was no chit-chat leading up to them.

Ngaire frowned. Wasn’t the 20th of June today? No, it must already have clicked over into the 21st. Why didn’t he just say earlier today?

“I was at work during the day, and then I went straight home,” Ngaire said. The same answer she would’ve given for any weekday or night during the past three months. That was how long it’d been since she’d gone anywhere or done anything. After the last beating she’d sustained, all she ever wanted to do was curl up safe at home. A run was quite the experience. Her physio appointments had kept her entertained before that, but now they’d lapsed there was no social engagement. Show Week and Christmas would be a hell of a shock to her system this year.

“What time did you arrive at work?”

Gascoigne stared at her. Not making eye contact, his view hit slightly below her collarbone. It freaked her out though with the glare he had on him perhaps it was best he wasn’t meeting eye level.

“Just after eight o’clock.” Her job started at eight-thirty but years of her mom and dad’s resistance to punctuality resulted in her turning up well before any appointed time. It led to long stays in airports and lobbies, but she felt anxious if she was so late as to be on time.

“Is there somebody we can contact to verify that?” Redding again.

“There’ll be a record of my swipe card in and out, and there’s CCTV in the lobby. Somebody from admin will give you those records.”

“And what time did you leave?”

“Around six.” Ngaire shrugged. “Maybe a bit after.”

She shifted on the hard wooden seat and wished they’d taken her into the rape suite instead. That had comfy big chairs, and a relaxed feel. This room was utilitarian and wearing on her nerves.

“Anyone verify that?”

“CCTV will show me leaving.” Ngaire shook her head. “I don’t have it installed at home.”

There were no responding smiles across the table. Ngaire looked down at her hand where her thumbnail was trying to push back the cuticles on her other hand. Three of her nails were streaked red. One was bleeding. She’d never had the habit of biting her nails, at school or later, but there were other habits she couldn’t keep in check. She’d look stupid sitting on her hand, but she tucked the offending thumb under her knee and placed her wounded hand on the edge of the table. Out of range.

“What car do you drive?”

Ngaire frowned. “I don’t drive, usually. I took the bus today.”

Redding pushed back the cover of his notebook. “Registration number AHG766. We have this vehicle registered in your name.”

“Yeah, but I don’t drive it. It’s sitting in the garage.”

“It was seen driving down Colombo Street this evening at eleven o’clock,” Redding responded. He looked up and made eye contact with her. His face was bland and unsmiling. “Where were you going at that hour?”

Ngaire sat back in her chair, her thumb coming loose to play again with her hand. “I haven’t driven since my head was bashed in.” She pointed at Gascoigne with one bleeding finger, knowing he understood when that was. “If someone saw my car, then it must’ve been stolen.” She squinted her eyes and screwed up her nose. “You might’ve said at the time you brought me in. I could’ve checked.”

“Do we have permission to search your garage?” Gascoigne asked.

Ngaire felt a cold lump in her stomach: a mild ache. He didn’t believe her. She rubbed her abdomen with her right hand, trying to ease it.

“You don’t need to search my garage,” she said. “You can look in the side window to check. There’s nothing else in there.”

Why hadn’t she heard if her car was stolen? The garage had an internal door which she never bothered to lock. Even if she were asleep, surely she’d have heard something?

“Is your garage locked? It would be easier if we got an officer to check.” Gascoigne made it all sound so reasonable. “You have keys with you, I take it?”

Ngaire felt her stomach tighten, the knot worsening into true pain.

“I said you can look in the side window. The car should be there.” She shook her head. “If it’s not, then it’s been stolen and you can lodge the report.”

Shit. What if it hadn’t been tonight? When was the last time she’d looked into the garage? She just passed by it each night and assumed she’d notice if the whole bloody car were missing. But, what if she hadn’t? What if it’d been gone for days and she hadn’t even registered?

“I haven’t used it for months. If it’s not there, I don’t know when it would’ve gone.”

“You just said there’s a side window. Are you saying you haven’t been in your garage since you stopped driving?”

The disbelief in his voice was clear. Ngaire frowned and shook her head. It was late, and she was tired. This whole thing was a stupid imposition which no one had yet bothered to explain to her.

Gascoigne leaned forward, his elbows on the table. “Are you refusing us permission to search your garage, Miss Blakes?”

Rubbing her abdomen was getting her no relief. Ngaire dropped her hand away and gripped at the sides of the chair as she fought against the pain. “Yes,” she said, her voice firm. “Until you tell me why I’ve been brought into the station in the middle of the night for questioning, then I’m refusing to allow you to search anything.”

She could see him weighing up the options. If he arrested her, then he could force the issue. That he was even considering that scared the hell out of her. Why did they think she was involved in this murder? Just because someone’d seen her car? If it even was her car. How many white Nissan Pulsars were there on the streets of Christchurch? Hundreds? Thousands?

“Right,” he decided, nodding at Redding. “We’ll suspend the interview there for the moment. We’ll recommence once we’ve had an officer verify whether your car is in your garage.”

“I’m free to go,” Ngaire said. She didn’t phrase it as a question, but that was how he chose to answer.

“We’d prefer you stay close by. There’s a cell free which you can rest in. Redding, get her a cup of something, would you?”

Gascoigne left, his quick stride eating up the meters to his office. Ngaire stared at Redding. She’d worked on the same team as him for a good year before she’d dropped off the force.

“What’s this about, Doug?” she asked. “What’s going on?”

He shook his head and walked to the doorway. “You heard the DS. There’s a cell available.”

“I’m not going in a bloody cell if I’m just in here for questioning. I’ll wait in reception.” She wanted to tell him she’d go home, and they could come fetch her again if they needed to, but she didn’t have a means home. Even the night bus was hours ago, and that would’ve left her with a good twenty-minute walk.

Redding opened his mouth—to protest Ngaire presumed—but closed it again. Her glowering was coming into good effect then. He walked to the door through to reception and swiped it open.

“I’ll have a coffee. Milk, no sugar,” Ngaire said as she passed him. “Since the DS told you to offer me a drink.”

She smiled to herself as she sat down. The only one-upmanship she was likely to get for a while if her day continued the way it’d begun. It was 2.34am.

 

“Interview recommencing at 3.12am. Detective Sergeant Gascoigne and Detective Constable Redding present.”

Ngaire stifled a yawn with the back of her hand. She was in trouble, by the stony face that Gascoigne presented, and to yawn would seem nonchalant and put him even more on edge. But it was too late, and she was too tired to hold it back. Since her injury, her nights had been an unwelcome mix of flashbacks waking her to sleepless hours pumped high on adrenaline or sleeping past the alarm as her system tried to grab enough rest.

So far, she’d managed without the prescription for Zopiclone her therapist recommended when insomnia seemed set on keeping her awake and alert forever. Maybe it was time she gave in and let the chemicals sort her out for a few weeks.

“Can you state your name for the record?” Redding asked.

“Ngaire Louise Blakes,” she said, her voice deadpan.

“Earlier you stated that you no longer drove your vehicle, registration number AHG766. Is that statement still correct?”

“Yes,” Ngaire answered. “I haven’t driven it for months.”

“We had PC Bradbury return to your residence to ascertain whether your vehicle was on-site. After a visual inspection, he believes there is a white vehicle matching the description in the garage on your property.”

Ngaire’s eyes widened a little. That was good news or should’ve been. No one looked happy about it though.

“Well, good. I thought you would say it was stolen,” she said. Her thumbnail tried to pick at a fingernail, and she hitched it into her jeans pocket instead. “So it wasn’t my car you saw.”

“For the benefit of the tape,” Redding began.

Ngaire interrupted with a snort. They used a hard drive to record video and audio from the interview rooms. A constant feed only interrupted by turning the equipment on or off on the side panel mounted on the wall.

Redding glared at her, and Ngaire quieted down as though slapped. The muscles of his jaw were bunched tight, drawing his facial skin up and back. Doug was usually a slacker, doing enough work to get by and no more—or he had been when Ngaire worked at the station—but now he looked like he’d stay up a thousand late nights to lock her up.

“I’m showing the suspect photographs obtained from the cameras mounted on the corner of Brougham and Colombo Streets at 11.04pm on the evening of the 20th June 2016. Can you tell us if you recognize this vehicle, Miss Blakes?”

Ngaire stared at him, then at Gascoigne. There was no sympathy there. No pleading looks to show they were wrong in their assessment. Despite knowing her, they genuinely seemed to believe that she’d done something wrong. She leaned forward to look at the images.

“It’s a white Nissan Pulsar,” she said. “Like my car, except mine’s in my garage and would’ve been at the time these were taken.”

She sat back and rubbed the back of her neck. It seemed a large effort to keep it upright. The coffee she’d drunk far too quickly an hour earlier had worn away. Used up by her body and leaving it needing more manufactured energy. If only she kept two chocolate bars by the bed.

“Can you make out the license number of the vehicle?” Redding asked and pushed the third photograph farther forward.

Ngaire looked again. A lump formed in her throat at the same time her lungs seemed to empty of oxygen. She gasped in a breath. “The license plate reads AHG766,” she said after a pause. She sat back in her chair again. Should’ve guessed it would, of course. Otherwise, she’d still be tucked up in bed, failing to get a good night’s sleep there.

“So, perhaps you’d like to start again, and tell us the truth this time,” Redding said. “What were you doing driving down Colombo Street after eleven o’clock yesterday evening?”

Ngaire shook her head, and the motion seemed to continue after she stopped moving. A touch of vertigo was all she needed right now. She put her hand up to her mouth and pressed hard on her lips. It stopped nausea dead in its tracks. Sometimes.

She pulled the photo toward her again, something troubling her about the image aside from the car appearing to be hers when she knew it was in the garage.

The shot was from overhead where the traffic cameras were mounted. It must have been pulled off a feed. The image was grainy, the lights trailing ghosts even though the camera would be still. It was impossible to make out the driver. Hard enough to classify it was a person behind the wheel, no way to determine gender, age, appearance. Just dark shadows and light reflections.

There was something wrong. Some part of the image tugged at her brain. Wouldn’t let go.

Ngaire pushed the photograph away. She sat, her back pressed hard into the chair and closed her eyes, rubbing her lids lightly with her fingertips, then moving so both hands massaged her temples. She was getting a headache. Got them often since the attack earlier in the year.

Like migraines, they could incapacitate her. Unlike migraines, they didn’t have visual or sound effects. They also had no set pattern of development or resolution. Sometimes lasting days, sometimes minutes. The shattered pieces of her skull trying to reassemble themselves over her poorly handled brain.

“The license,” she said, pulling the photo forward again and scanning every pixel in the frame. She put it down and pointed to it with her finger, tap, tap. “Here.” She pushed the photograph back to Redding. “There’s no tagline on the license.”

He looked at it with disinterest. Too busy glaring at her to care. Ngaire looked at Gascoigne and pulled her keys out of her pocket. She took off the car key and fob and handed them across, followed by the garage key a moment later. Her hands shook as she hinged the keyring together again to keep her house keys and work swipe fob safe.

“You can look in my garage. Look at my car,” she said. “There’s a tagline under the license plate. Cochrane Nissan.”

The keys sat where she’d placed them, unwanted, on the table.

She leaned over to tap her finger on the photo again. “Here. On the plate. There’s nothing on this one.”

Redding glanced at Gascoigne then leaned forward. He shrugged. “Picture’s too grainy to make out. There could be something there.”

“It’s a blank white plate. There’s nothing there,” Ngaire insisted.

Redding shook his head, and Ngaire swept up the other photos and looked through them closely.

“Here,” she said at another picture. She slammed it down on the table. “This vehicle has a dent in the passenger door. You can see it when it’s turning.” She stabbed her finger at the shadow. “My car doesn’t have any dents in it.”

She tossed the remaining photographs down. “Somebody duplicated my plates,” she said. “Probably just applied online using my license number. Or made them himself.”

There was still no reaction, and Ngaire’s head throbbed. Serious business. Her vision ghosted and wouldn’t clear when she closed her eyes and shook her head. Tiredness added to the problem.

“I’ve given you the keys and permission,” Ngaire said. “An hour ago you were all gung-ho to go look in my garage.” She wiped a gleam of sweat off her forehead. “Well, now you have my permission. Go investigate.”

Redding shook his head, his lips a straight line cutting across his face. “Why would anybody go to the trouble of getting your license plates?”

A reasonable question that ignited fury inside Ngaire. “I don’t know. You’re the policeman, go police.” She waved her hand in dismissal. “It’s not my car. Can I go home now?”

Gascoigne left the room. Ngaire turned and saw him through the ajar door. He was talking to someone, gesticulating. When he turned to come back in the room, Ngaire saw an earpiece mounted in his right ear. Someone had called him out of the room. Why?

Gascoigne returned but didn’t bother to sit down this time. “You’re free to leave. We’ll be in contact again later if we need you for anything further.”

Ngaire stood. Her legs felt shaky and weak, even though all they’d been doing was sitting down. “Can I get a lift home?” she asked. “Since you drove me in here.”

Redding snorted his furious amusement and Gascoigne turned his back and walked out.

“I’m sure you can manage your own way home,” he said at the door. “Big girl like you.”

Chapter Two

Ngaire called in sick to work in the end. She hated to do it, tried her best to turn up no matter her level of health, but with a headache thumping at her, and lack of sleep making her clumsy, she gave up. She could sleep at home and feel miserable when she woke up later.

Feel miserable, she did. The sun, hidden behind a layer of dull cloud, was well overhead before Ngaire rose from the bed and had a shower to wake herself up. The temperature outside was so bitter her heat pumps kept turning off to defrost themselves. Leaving her at the mercy of the elements.

When she filled up the kettle to boil water for her morning coffee, it was nearing two o’clock. If she couldn’t sleep tonight, she had no one to blame but herself.

Ngaire had called a taxi to take her home from the station. At first, she’d tried to wrangle a ride out of the constable hosting the late night reception, but he wasn’t in a position to help. Or wouldn’t let himself help.

The taxi cost her nearly forty dollars and gave her the thrill of broken conversation followed by loud classical music for her money. The driver had the heat pumped up against the chill, but it overemphasized the smells from common use engrained in the leather of his seats. A reek of drunken, sweaty bodies layered up over months and years.

She should probably check-in at work. Something held her back, though whether it was her shame over not going in to begin with, or her reluctance to deal with the people there. Nicole would probably answer, and she would chirrup through a greeting, an inquiry into Ngaire’s general health, and an update on all the minutiae of office gossip that had built up over the day. It sounded too much like hard work. Besides, this was what sick days were for.

But you’re not really sick the voice inside her insisted as she drank down a cup of instant and pulled out a couple of frozen slices of bread to toast.

At first, Ngaire thought her paper mustn’t have been delivered, then she managed to track it down to behind the skeletal blackberry patch to the side of the house. The driveway should’ve been an obvious target for the paper deliveryman, but either his aim was atrocious, or he had other ideas about where papers should be picked up from. The times it did make it onto the gray concrete of her drive, it seemed like an afterthought, a mistake.

The front-page headline was a brutal murder in the central city. Ngaire ignored the black-and-white photo, enlarged past its recommended size, to read through the text. There she was. Keelin Sinclair.

The photo showed a pup tent which would’ve been erected shortly after discovery to shield the body both from prying eyes and from evidence contamination. The reporter’s frustration could almost be felt from the angled shots, each trying and failing to catch a glimpse inside.

Gruesome. That was the word that caught Ngaire’s eye. A gruesome discovery, according to a witness who arrived on the scene so late the police didn’t care if he talked to the media. Something he’d overheard, or something he’d inserted for his own sense of involvement.

Police are seeking help from anyone who saw a white Nissan Pulsar registration number AHG766 around the area between the hours of eleven o’clock and two o’clock. If you have any information, please call Crimestoppers.

Great. Ngaire calculated quickly how many people would know her license plate off by heart, thankfully producing only a handful. She’d turned her phone to silent after she rang work that morning, so she wouldn’t be disturbed while she slept the sleep of the dead, but she turned it back on now. Gingerly touching the sound button.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Katherine Hayton is a forty-three-year-old woman who works in insurance, doesn't have children or pets, can't drive, has lived in Christchurch her entire life, and currently resides a two-minute walk from where she was born. For some reason, she’s developed an active fantasy life. The Second Stage of Grief is the second in a new series featuring DC Ngaire Blakes. The first book, The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton, won a Kindle Scout campaign and was published by Kindle Press in March 2016.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
When writing the first Ngaire Blakes mystery, there were aspects of her life I wanted to explore but which didn’t fit within that particular story. This time, I delved deeper and took Ngaire on a journey to reconnect with her family, and confront the painful memories that shaped her childhood.
Q. What books are you reading now?
A.
The latest Paul Cleave, Trust No One, is on my Kindle right now. He’s from Christchurch too, and I love reading the warped views he has of my hometown. I’m on holiday soon, so queued up next is Karin Slaughter because there’s nothing better than sitting in the sun experiencing horrible murders.
Q. Why do you write?
A.
I’ve given up drinking and I’ve given up smoking, but writing is the one addiction I never managed to quit. Even if I do stop – sometimes for years – I still have the ideas bubbling around in my head saying, “Write me, write me.” Eventually, I succumb.

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