Mary was kneeling in front of the flower-beds, slamming her hands on top of them, weeping and crying out her brother’s name. Joe walked across the grass towards her and watched her destroy the freshly planted flowers, leaving orange and yellow petals strewn across the soil.

Joe hunkered down beside her. ‘Mary?’

She looked up at him, tears shining in her pale eyes.

‘Mary. Did you see something?’

Tears spilled down her cheeks. Joe laid a gentle hand on her shoulder.

‘You’re not in any trouble, Mary.’

She shook her head. ‘I have to be.’

‘No,’ said Joe. ‘You don’t.’

She bowed her head and cried harder and harder.

Julia turned to Joe. ‘This clinic is my life. I just didn’t want it associated with any negative publicity. We’re just about to open this one. There’s a lot at stake. A lot of people’s lives depend on us. I am so terribly sorry for how this has ended. But it was for the best intentions.’ She paused. ‘Do you know what it’s like to want something at all costs?’


The sulphurous smell of death filled the crime scene tent that stood in the quietest corner of the grounds behind the Colt-Embry Homes. The flower-bed ran through the centre, its bright blooms in contrast to everything around it: the steady rainfall on the roof, the set faces of the detectives, the body under the surface.

A tall blond crime scene tech stood in front of Danny and Joe, squeezing the contents of a clear plastic bag to blend the powder and water inside it.

‘Dental stone,’ said Joe, shaking his head.

‘Makes sense,’ said Danny.

The technician crouched down by a boot print and released the liquid so it poured slowly around the ridges without disturbing the soil. He let it spill out over the top, then stepped back and sealed the bag. Three more technicians used small shovels and sifters to gradually expose the body, buried just two feet under the surface.

One of them looked up. ‘So someone finished him off for you.’

Joe looked through him.

‘Least you got him,’ said the tech.

Joe shrugged. ‘You know what? I have a funeral to go to Saturday. The guy you’re digging up there killed one of my men. We did not get him… not the way we wanted.’

‘I was ready for a perp walk,’ said Danny. His tone was flat.

Joe stared at the leather cuff on Blake’s stone-white wrist, his hand half-pushing through the soil as if he was trying to reach out.

‘The beetle,’ said Joe. ‘I was right. He had all that leather in his house…’

‘Nice work, detective,’ said Danny.

‘Come on,’ said Joe. ‘Let’s go get some air.’

Shaun was sitting alone at the dinner table when Joe got back.

‘Where’s your mom?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘I heard about Tara…’

Shaun nodded.

‘How are you doing?’

Shaun smiled at him. ‘Dad, it’s OK. You don’t have to talk to me about stupid stuff when, like, Old Nic’s son has died and you nearly got-’

‘How you are doing is what I’d like to know,’ said Joe, shrugging. He grabbed a plate and helped himself to spaghetti.

‘I’m OK,’ said Shaun.

‘Good,’ said Joe.

‘My heart will go on.’ He was smiling.

Joe laughed. ‘Look… about college…’

Shaun’s smile faded. ‘Yeah?’


‘Look, I’m going to college, Dad, OK? I have another few months before my applications have to be in. I need to think about it.’

‘But you are going? That is what you want?’

Shaun rolled his eyes. ‘Of course it’s what I want. It’s just it was all too much trying to think about it. I mean, it’s deciding where I want to live for the next few years, what I want to do with my life. That’s big stuff.’

Joe breathed out. ‘Well, I’m glad.’

‘How are you?’ said Shaun.

Joe raised his eyebrows. ‘Me? I’m great.’

Shaun didn’t question him.

Joe’s cell phone rang – private number. He stood up and walked into the darkened living room.

Duke Rawlins’ voice was quiet menace: ‘The grave was a beautiful touch.’

‘Yeah? I thought you’d like it,’ said Joe.

‘You got your old friend to take a little trip here, didn’t you? I guess he did as you told him. Paid some teenage dirtbag to dig right alongside Donnie. There’s not a whole hell of a lot of space there. Probably fit a small woman. Or a child.’

Joe said nothing.

‘He can’t be much of a friend if you sent him my way,’ said Duke.

Joe’s heart pounded as he thought of Patti Nicotero, already bereaved.

Rawlins’ voice was quieter when he spoke again. ‘I guess you knew it was the one place I’d come back to. You couldn’t stand not knowing where I was for all those months, what I was doing, who I was doing it with…’

Anna walked into the living room. Her eyes sparkled. Her hair was newly cut. It fell to her shoulders, dark and shiny, split at one side. He smiled at her. She held out her arms. Her white top rode up and he could see her tiny belly. He was hit with love, regret, fear, guilt, shame. She opened her mouth to speak. Joe held a finger to his lips, but kept smiling. And listening.

It’s a powerful thing to be up close, sucked into the dead space of a killer, having to touch him, observe him, get answers from him, invest in him. Most people saw Duke Rawlins only in a photograph in a newspaper, from a safe remove – where they couldn’t sense what was rotting from inside him. In the flesh, it seeped out every way it could – through the soulless eyes, through unbrushed teeth and unwashed skin. Joe had forced Anna to cross that boundary unprepared. She was torn from the comfortable world Joe had helped create and plunged into Duke Rawlins’ twisted little universe. It felt like an illusion now, that Joe had sold her some bullshit dream he could never follow through on.

Joe looked at Anna and a shiver ran up his spine. Duke Rawlins had stalked her, held her, breathed on her, carried her, struck her, drawn a knife across her perfect skin…

Anna turned to leave and looked back at Joe over her shoulder, her eyes lighting up, her smile going right to his heart.

He hung up the phone.

One thing Rawlins hadn’t done: he hadn’t broken her.

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