about my life based on incomplete data. I need a total rethink, Carol.’

There was an absolute quality about his seriousness that she knew she had no power to argue against. She fell back on the tactics she knew best. The ones that had made her such a formidable copper. When in doubt, attack. ‘What does that mean, Tony? You sound like a politician. All words and nothing concrete. ‘

He gave a sad little smile. ‘I can do concrete, Carol. I just wanted to explain myself first. I’m planning on handing in my notice at Bradfield Moor. I’m planning on selling the narrowboat because I don’t like it. And I’m planning on moving into Arthur’s house in Worcester because it’s the only place I’ve ever slept that felt like home. Beyond that, I don’t know.’

She understood all the words, but taken together they made no sense. It was as if she’d gone to bed in one world and woken in another. ‘You’re going to live in Worcester? In Worcester? You spent one night there and now you’re going to move there? Have you lost your mind?’

He shook his head, misery on his face. ‘I knew you’d be like this. I’ve not lost my mind, no. I’m just trying to figure out how I move forward in my life knowing the things I know now about where I came from. So much of what I thought I knew isn’t the case. And I need to work out where that leaves me.’

She wanted to scream, ‘What about me?’ Not screaming it was a physical effort. She gripped the edge of the table and forced her lips tightly together.

‘It’s OK, Carol. You can say it. “What about me?” That’s what you want to say, isn’t it?’

‘And that’s why I want to say it,’ she said, dismayed that she sounded so choked. ‘Because you know without me telling you.’

‘I can’t make your choices for you,’ he said. ‘It’s up to you. You’ve won this round against Blake, but he’s not leaving any time soon. You’ve met Alvin Ambrose, you’ve spoken to Stuart Patterson. They’re decent men who care about what they’re doing. If you wanted a change, West Mercia would probably bite your hand off.’ He made a small gesture with his hands, as if to suggest an offer.

Carol knew that for him to ask her to come with him was probably an impossibility. He’d never believed he deserved her. But she needed more than this. ‘Why should I, Tony? What’s in it for me?’ She challenged him with the hundred-yard cop’s stare.

He looked away. ‘It’s a big house, Carol. There’s plenty of room for two.’

‘Room for two like there’s room for two here? Or a different kind of room for two?’ She waited, watching for something in his face to give her hope.

Eventually Tony picked up the chrome recorder and weighed it in his hand. ‘This morning,’ he said slowly, ‘anything seems possible.’

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