Trust No One

Alex Walters


Of course, this has to be dedicated to Christine, with thanks for everything. And to James, Adam and Jonny for their continuing love and support.

I’d also like to thank all those, necessarily nameless, who gave me advice and information about various aspects of undercover work. And thanks to Sammia Rafique, my excellent editor at Avon, and to Peter Buckman, as always a wonderful agent and an astute critic.

This has to be for Christine, of course. For everything.

Au revoir, love, wherever you are.


The last time she saw Jake, Marie found herself awake, sometime after midnight, staring into the darkness. She told herself it was because they’d eaten late, because she’d drunk too much wine. Because tonight, after their conversation in the restaurant, after what had been said and not said, their lovemaking had left her restless rather than relaxed. All that was true, but she couldn’t fool herself that it was the whole story.

She rolled over in the bed. Jake was asleep, on his back, snoring softly. She was tempted to wake him, caress him, hope that more sex would calm her tense nerves. The logic of the addict. A second impulse, maybe more rational, was simply to slip away, now, in the small hours. Put an end to all this before it was too late.

Jake deserved better. This was her mess, not his. Whatever she did, she had to do right by Jake. She’d sit down and talk to him properly. Tell him what she could. Not the whole truth. Probably not much of the truth. But something. Enough. Enough so he’d understand. One day soon.

She pushed back the duvet and sat up, for a moment enjoying the small-hours chill of the bedroom on her naked body. Beside her, Jake stirred, rolled over, but didn’t wake. She eased herself out of bed and reached for the old dressing gown that Jake had loaned her. It was too small to have been Jake’s, and she assumed that it had belonged to some past girlfriend. Fair enough. Jake’s business.

Moving quietly across the room, she paused to gather up her handbag and the clothes she’d left neatly piled on the chair by the door. There was no point in staying in bed. She’d only toss and turn till she woke Jake, and despite her earlier impulse, that wasn’t really what she wanted. She’d do what she often ended up doing these days, here and in her own flat. She’d make herself a hot drink, read a mindless magazine or watch some content- free television, or just sit out on Jake’s balcony, listening to the distant ripple of the water and the sounds of the night. Calm herself to the point where she could sleep again.

And if that failed, she told herself, she’d wake Jake and give sex another shot after all.

With a kettle boiling in the kitchen, she dressed quickly, more conscious of the cold now. They’d had a quiet evening – a few drinks in the pub, an Italian, a bottle of wine between them – and her outfit was practical rather than decorative. Jeans, a sweater, smart boots.

She’d never doubted that she’d stay over again tonight. It had been inevitable long before she’d knocked back her first large red. But, as usual, she’d brought no change of clothes, reasoning that she’d have time in the morning to get back to the flat, to shower and change, before she needed to get to the shop. She told herself that it was because she wanted nothing taken for granted – but whether by herself or by Jake, she didn’t know.

She made herself a decaff coffee and wandered back through to Jake’s neat living room. It was like the man himself – unostentatious, slightly chaotic, primarily functional, but occasionally intriguing. The walls were bare except for two small but expensive-looking pieces of figurative art, sitting incongruously alongside a large signed photograph of the 1974 Leeds United team. Jake was a man with some obvious shallows and many hidden depths, only a few of which she’d so far managed to plumb.

She hovered by the television for a moment, then picked up her leather jacket from Jake’s sofa. Returning to the kitchen, she turned off the light, then did the same in the hallway and the living room, plunging the flat back into darkness. Satisfied, she pulled open the large picture window that gave on to the balcony. It was one of the joys of Jake’s quayside flat. Her own building looked out over the city, with a distant view of the Pennines and on a sunny day she could glimpse the grey-green hills between the buildings, giving an unexpected sense of space and distance amid the cluttered office blocks. But this was something different again, the kind of view that estate agents measured in the millions – a direct outlook over the heart of the quays and the old ship canal. Off to the right were the modernist lines and angles of the Lowry complex, and over the water the bewitching jumble of the Imperial War Museum. In the foreground to the left, glowing crimson, the imposing monolith of Old Trafford. Beyond all that, there was the mess of industrial buildings that formed Trafford Park. In the daylight, it felt like the ultimate urban landscape, a bustling blend of the old and the new, commerce and leisure. But at night, when the football crowds and concert-goers had disappeared, it was almost peaceful, with the gentle brush of the water against the quayside, the rippling lights across the face of the canal.

She closed the window behind her, and zipping up her jacket, lowered herself on to one of the chairs, adjusting the back so that she could stare up into the starlit sky. The constant glare of Manchester dimmed the spectacle, but it was a clear night and she could make out the scattered patterns of constellations. Beginning to relax for the first time since she’d woken, she closed her eyes, enjoying the moment of peace, imagining herself drifting away on the cool night air. Trying not to think.

Without realizing, she nodded into sleep and when she woke what might have been minutes or hours later, she had a sense that something – some noise, some movement – had invaded her consciousness. She sat up, trying to work out what had disturbed her. It was a half-familiar sensation – as if someone had been hammering at the door or pressing on the bell in the moments before she’d woken.

She glanced at her watch. She’d been asleep only for a few minutes. But something had changed. A light reflected off her watch. She twisted and saw that the hallway was illuminated. Probably Jake had got up to use the bathroom.

She climbed to her feet, preparing to go back inside. Then she stopped.

It took her a moment to work out what she was seeing. Through the picture window, past the living room, in the hallway. The front door half-open. A man standing in the hall, leaning on the frame of the bedroom door. Not Jake. Someone she didn’t recognize at all.

There was something about the man’s movements, his body language. It wasn’t the posture of a house- breaker – not furtive, cautious, on edge. This was different.

The man was a pro. Somehow, even from this distance, with his back half-turned towards her, she had no

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