No Other Darkness (D.I. Marnie Rome 2)

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9781472207739: No Other Darkness (D.I. Marnie Rome 2)

“The DI Marnie Rome series [is] one to watch.” —Shelf Awareness

The gripping follow-up to Sarah Hilary’s acclaimed debut Someone Else’s Skin, No Other Darkness finds mystery’s “impressive new cop-heroine” (The Times, London) on a case that hauntingly echoes her own family tragedy. Detective InspectorMarnie Rome and her partner Detective Sergeant Noah Jake are investigating the recent discovery of two dead boys in a bunker beneath a London garden. Terry and Beth, under whose garden the bodies were discovered, have two children of their own, and are also fostering a difficult boy named Clancy. Clancy reminds Marnie of her foster brother Stephen, who murdered her parents. Is Marnie’s past blinding her to the truth? Only one thing is certain: when Terry and Beth’s biological children vanish, Marnie can’t waste a moment finding them.

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About the Author:

SARAH HILARY lives with her daughter in Bath, England, where she writes quirky copy for a well-loved travel publisher.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Five years ago

Fred’s crying again, a snotty noise with a whine in it, like the puppy when she’s shut outside. Archie’s the oldest so it’s his job to take care of Fred when Mum and Dad aren’t around, but he’s fed up of drying Fred’s tears and wiping Fred’s nose. Most of all, he’s fed up of telling Fred it’s going to be okay. Archie doesn’t like telling lies, especially not to his little brother.

Fred’s only five but he’s got a way of looking at you like the puppy when he knows you’re lying. ‘No more scraps, girl. All gone,’ but Budge always knew Dad was lying and she started whining even before he shut her outside. There’s a smeary spot on the sliding door where she put her nose when she looked at you, begging to be let back in.

‘I want Mummy,’ Fred hiccups. ‘Where’s Mummy?’

He’s twisted the sleeping bag so that Archie can’t see the zipper. There’s a long dirty streak up the side of the bag where the cement floor’s rubbed. The sleeping bag smells bad, like everything else down here. Fred smells bad, and so does Archie.

He says, ‘You’ve got to lie still. It’s night-time, go to sleep.’

‘It doesn’t feel like night-time,’ Fred whines.

There are no windows down here, so Archie can’t show Fred the dark outside, the way he would at home. He shows Fred the watch face, even though Fred’s only just learning to tell the time. ‘Little hand’s on the eleven, see? That means it’s eleven o’clock.’

‘I want a banana,’ Fred sobs. ‘Elevenses I have my banana.’

‘That’s eleven in the morning. This’s eleven at night.’

‘Then I want Mummy to tuck me in.’

Archie’s skin’s too tight around his neck. ‘You are tucked in,’ he says. ‘I tucked you in.’

He rolls away so that his back’s turned to Fred. It’s mean, but it’s what Archie does at home so he thinks maybe Fred will take the hint and go to sleep. After a bit, he decides it must’ve worked because Fred’s gone quiet, except for a couple of sniffs, and that whistle in his chest. His face is white but it’s a hot white, like when the sun’s gone behind clouds.

The whistle in his chest means something’s wrong inside.

Fred’s sick.

Archie knows his brother’s hungry, because he’s hungry too. If he was back home he’d say, ‘I’m starving,’ but he’s scared to say that here, in case it’s true. In case they really are starving, him and Fred. Archie won’t tell lies, and he won’t say things – terrible things – that might be true. In case it makes them come true, like a jinx, or a dare.

When Fred says, ‘Mummy’s never coming, nor Daddy,’ Archie tells him to shut up. It’s the only time he gets angry with his brother. ‘Of course they’re coming. Shut up.’

Archie blinks his eyes open in the dark. He doesn’t need to pretend for Fred, not right now. Even if he’s awake, Fred can’t see. He saw the watch because it’s got a little light in the side, but it’s too dark for him to see Archie, and anyway, Archie’s turned away. He could pick his nose or cry – he could cry for Mum and Dad, as long as he cries quietly – and Fred won’t know. He can’t see Archie’s face, just the back of Archie’s T-shirt where the label sticks up.

Archie should’ve put on pyjamas at bedtime. He made Fred put on pyjamas, but it was hard work and by the end of it Archie was too tired to be bothered with his own, so he’s gone to bed in his T-shirt and shorts. It’s the first time he’s done that: broken the rules. He should’ve brushed his teeth, too, but he didn’t. He made Fred brush his teeth and then he pretended he’d done his, when Fred was using the bucket.

It scares Archie that he’s started breaking the rules, but it also makes him feel brave, like when he stood up to Saul Weller at school. Instead of hitting Archie harder, Saul gave him a brofist. Sometimes it pays to break the rules.

The T-shirt label tickles. Archie’s neck is bony, and every bit of him hurts. He’s cold all the time. If he was at home, he’d pull the duvet higher. The sleeping bag won’t be pulled. It’s sweaty inside, and it stinks. Archie hates the stink almost as much as he hates the dark, although he’d never admit it, not to Fred, not even to himself.

At home, their bedroom’s at the top of the house and Mum used to say she’d put up special curtains to block out the light, but she never did and Archie’s glad because he doesn’t like the dark and besides there’s a tree outside their window where a blackbird nests. They couldn’t see the bird if the curtains were special.

Archie wishes there was a window down here.

But all he’d see would be earth, packed and black.

Even if the window was in the roof, like the one in Saul Weller’s house, all he’d see would be earth.

They’re buried, underground.

The thought makes Archie sick, makes his wrists skip like he’s run a race. A sour taste leaks into his mouth, like puke coming up. He doesn’t want to think about it. He screws his eyes shut and thinks of the blackbird, its yellow beak and blinking eye, watching through the branches of the tree at the top of the house where the light comes in and puts stripes across the foot of his bed, and Fred’s.

Fred murmurs in his sleep, ‘Mummy. Mummy . . .’

He has to keep quiet. They both have to keep quiet. That’s the first rule, and the most important one. They promised to keep quiet.

Archie curls his hands and fits a fist into his mouth to stop him from hushing Fred, from saying, ‘It’s all right. She’s coming, it’s all okay,’ because it’s wrong.

It’s wrong to tell lies, especially to your little brother.

PART ONE

1

Now

DS Noah Jake watched Debbie Tanner swinging between the station’s desks with her cake tin, like a burlesque dancer collecting big tips. DS Ron Carling dipped a hand into the tin with his stare on DC Tanner’s chest as if someone had stuck it there: googly eyes. Debbie had a stupendous chest; it managed to make her plain white shirt look like a basque.

‘Muffins,’ she said. ‘Home-made.’

Carling took a muffin from the tin, making appropriate noises of approval. He’d put on three pounds since Debbie joined the unit.

Noah’s phone buzzed: a text from Dan. Not work-safe, not remotely. Noah wiped the text with his thumb, holding in a smile. The cake tin landed under his nose.

‘Take two,’ Debbie said. ‘Unless Dan doesn’t have a sweet tooth.’ She gave a conspiratorial smile. ‘But he’s going out with the best-looking DS in London, so I’m guessing he does.’ She proffered the tin. ‘I made them fresh this morning.’

‘Thanks, but it’s a bit soon after breakfast for me.’

What time did she get up, to bake a tin of muffins before 9 a.m.?

‘I’ll leave one for later.’ She plucked a muffin and placed it next to Noah’s keyboard, where it pouted at him from its paper cup. ‘Next time I’ll make a Jamaican batch. Banana pecan. Maybe your mum has a recipe?’

‘DS Jake, a minute?’ DI Marnie Rome beckoned from the doorway to her office, looking pin-neat in a charcoal suit, her short red curls tidied back from her face.

Noah got to his feet, pocketing his phone.

DC Tanner followed him into Marnie’s office, swinging her tin. ‘Muffin? I make them with courgette. It’s much better for you than butter. Not that you need to watch your figure.’ She patronised Marnie’s flat chest with a sympathetic smile, reaching her free hand for the pot plant on the edge of the desk, feeling with her fingers for the soil packed around its roots.

Marnie sat behind her desk, nodding at Noah to take the chair on the other side.

The plant was a cactus which, when it was in the mood, gave out spidery white flowers. It was giving them out now, but Debbie checked the soil anyway, as if someone as busy as DI Rome couldn’t be relied on to look after a cactus. Noah winced at the familiarity, but Marnie simply said, ‘How’s the paperwork going, detective?’

‘I’m right on top of it,’ Debbie promised. She turned on her heel and wove her way back to her desk, prow and stern swaying dizzily. No wonder Ron Carling and the others stared.

Noah didn’t stare. He was watching DI Rome. She had her case face on: a new line, thin as a thread, at the bridge of her nose. ‘What’s happened?’

‘Bodies,’ she said. ‘In Snaresbrook . . .’

‘How many bodies?’

‘Two.’ She held his gaze steadily and with a measure of sympathy. ‘Young children.’

His first case with dead children; well, he’d known it would happen sooner or later. ‘Snaresbrook, that’s . . .’

‘Out east, past Leytonstone . . . Not our usual stamping ground.’ Marnie put back her chair and stood, waiting while Noah did the same. ‘But it’s under the Met’s jurisdiction and I know this place, or rather I know the street. So they put the call through to here.’

‘What place? I mean, how do you know it?’

‘Blackthorn Road.’ Marnie picked up her bag. ‘I headed up an investigation there eighteen months ago.’

Before Noah’s time with the major incident team. ‘What was the case?’

‘Domestic, with complications.’ Clipping the words back, her eyes already in Snaresbrook, working this new case.

‘Complications?’ Noah echoed.

‘A missing child. For a while it looked like an abduction, or worse.’

‘But it wasn’t?’

Marnie shook her head. ‘We found her safe and well. There’s no obvious connection between that and . . . this.’

The way she said this made Noah’s skin creep. ‘Except it happened on the same street.’

‘Four houses down. And some time ago, judging by what they’ve found. And where they found it.’

She read his look of wary enquiry. ‘Underground. This was a burial, but not in the usual sense. I don’t know much more than that. I’ve asked DS Carling to take a first look at Missing Persons. You and I need to get over there.’

Noah’s imagination was conjuring images, each worse than the one before.

A burial, but not in the usual sense . . .

Marnie touched his elbow briefly before she nodded at the door. ‘Let’s find out.’

2

Sweat made Marnie’s shirt cling to the small of her back. Instinct pinched shut her nose in protest at the smell: sweet and bloated by rot. A bluebottle brushed at her wrist and she flinched through the latex glove. It hadn’t hatched down here; if it had, the whole place would be foul with flies. A solitary bluebottle had followed her down, seeking the source of the smell, sweeping the dark with its droning before it settled, as she had, by the side of the bed. Useless to bat it away; it had found what flies like best: dead meat.

Every one of Marnie’s muscles screamed at her to get out, away, her blood flooded by adrenalin, skin twitchy with distress. She stayed where she was, crouched by the side of the makeshift bed. She couldn’t leave them, not yet; it was scary down here in the dark.

The bluebottle had gone quiet, crawling. She made no attempt to knock it away, grateful at some level for the sound it made, an almost human sound. It was too quiet down here.

High overhead, the sky squatted.

A small square of sky, too far away for warmth or light. Marnie had to rely on a trio of police torches, their focus turned to flood, burning at intervals around the room.

If you could call it a room. Thirty feet by fifty of cemented walls and floor, bruised by damp, the ceiling supported by two cement pillars.

Twelve feet underground.

It was a pit.

A burial, but not in the usual sense . . .

Marnie had instructed Noah to stay with the family who’d found the pit, up in the clean air of the garden at number 14 Blackthorn Road. Then she’d climbed down, because she needed to see what they were dealing with.

You entered the pit from a manhole, by way of a rusting ladder. The rungs of the ladder had bitten her gloved palms, shedding sharp flakes of orange iron.

White torchlight burned on the raw walls, and on the makeshift bed.

Marnie couldn’t look at the bed, not properly. She wasn’t ready.

Instead, she looked around the floor, at the mess of tin cans and clothes, picture books and toys. Keeping very still out of respect for the crime scene, waiting for Fran Lennox and Forensics. Her eyes scanned the dark, making a mental inventory ahead of the official one.

Two small pairs of black trainers with Velcro fastenings stood at the foot of the bed. Two blue anoraks, camouflage-patterned, hung from a nail knocked into the wall. A handful of picture books lay on the cement floor. The books were swollen, the way a telephone directory swells if it’s left in the rain on the doorstep of an empty house. Ink had run across the covers, making monsters of ducks and puppies and robots.

A low pyramid of food cans was stacked against one wall. Damp had stripped the labels away and eaten into the tin. The cans had ring-pulls in their lids, tricky for small fingers. The soft toys – a monkey in a striped T-shirt, a squirrel with a red tail – sagged with damp. An abandoned jigsaw puzzle had peeled into pieces of green card. The lid of the box showed a busy farmyard under a blue sky. The jigsaw was simple enough for pre-schoolers, but thanks to the damp, its sky was indistinguishable from grass, its corners gone for ever.

Marnie’s eyes burned, looking at the jigsaw. How cruel would you have to be to put a picture of grass and sky down here where there was only grey cement and creeping damp?

She listened for sounds from the garden overhead, but it was quiet. The cement was thick, with three feet of soil above it, stopping sound from getting in, or out.

The river ran not far from the foot of the garden; she could smell it. Had it flooded down here then drained away? Was she looking at death by drowning? She didn’t think so.

Not poison, either. The bodies were too . . .

She struggled for the right word. Peaceful? Relaxed? Neither word was right, but poison would have looked different. The bodies on the bed were curled together. Sleeping, except that they weren’t. A watch hung off one little, brittle wrist. It had long ago stopped ticking.

What was she seeing? A slow starvation? Sickness? Suffocation?

Probably not suffocation; damp and mould meant the air had been getting in, by accident or design. Design, she guessed. This was a bunker, most probably intended for storage, although she couldn’t rule out Cold War paranoia. It’d been built for the living, not the dead.

Which hadn’t stopped someone doing . . . this.

She touched her hand to the side of the makeshift bed, even though it made no difference now. She was too late. By her best guess, some years too late. Four, five years? Fran Lennox would know. She was on her way with a full forensic team. The trail was cold, too cold for twenty minutes to make a difference. Soon Marnie would start bagging and tagging. She’d be a detective. Right now, she wanted to be a human being. An appalled human being, sitting in silence with two other, smaller ones. Just for a minute; Fran would be here soon.

Marnie murmured it to the little bodies on the bed: ‘She’s coming. She’ll be here soon.’

She looked away from the bed, to the wall where the food cans were stacked. The bunker was organised lik...

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Book Description Headline Publishing Group, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Sarah Hilary, winner of the 2015 Theakston s Crime Novel of the Year for SOMEONE ELSE S SKIN returns with her second DI Marnie Rome novel. For readers of Alex Marwood, Claire Mackintosh or any fan of Line of Duty or Happy Valley. Hell for leather compelling ObserverThe bodies of two young boys are discovered, trapped in an underground bunker, huddled against one another for warmth.Who put them there? Why has it taken five years to find them? Who are they?So begins one of the most difficult and traumatic cases of DI Marnie Rome s career. Her only focus is the boys. She has to find out just who they are and what happened to them.For Marnie, there is no other darkness than this. Bookseller Inventory # AA69781472207739

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Book Description Headline Publishing Group, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Sarah Hilary, winner of the 2015 Theakston s Crime Novel of the Year for SOMEONE ELSE S SKIN returns with her second DI Marnie Rome novel. For readers of Alex Marwood, Claire Mackintosh or any fan of Line of Duty or Happy Valley. Hell for leather compelling ObserverThe bodies of two young boys are discovered, trapped in an underground bunker, huddled against one another for warmth.Who put them there? Why has it taken five years to find them? Who are they?So begins one of the most difficult and traumatic cases of DI Marnie Rome s career. Her only focus is the boys. She has to find out just who they are and what happened to them.For Marnie, there is no other darkness than this. Bookseller Inventory # AA69781472207739

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