Killing You Softly
‘But only on the margins and something is telling me to keep it that way.’ I wouldn’t share with Jayden that I’d been
freaked out by imaginary fingers scratching at the window, or any of the other creepy things that had happened lately – the fake Facebook pictures, the dead robin, the notes, the emoticon
hearts. Somehow I felt he wouldn’t make the most sympathetic of listeners.
    ‘But I asked you and you’re here,’ he said stubbornly.
    ‘Because I talked to Alex and I felt sorry for him.’ I watched Bolt trot ahead, detour around the
Closed to pedestrians
sign and scoot under the police tape, making a neat
pattern of prints in the snow. ‘Anyway, I don’t think he did it,’ I added.
    Bolt sniffed at a heap of shifted snow then cocked his bandy leg to pee against the white forensic tent. ‘I hope no one’s working inside there,’ I commented.
    Jayden shrugged. ‘So exactly how did it go – your conversation with Alex?’
    ‘I was walking in the school grounds, Alex was on his bike. He fell off. I didn’t recognize him at first so I ran up and asked what he was doing on private property.’
    ‘Yeah, Alyssa – a guy falls off his bike and you tell him he’s trespassing. Typical.’
    ‘We could stop right now,’ I said angrily. ‘I could walk away.’
    Jayden’s scowl deepened. He tilted his head forward then looked up at me from under knotted eyebrows. ‘Sometimes you come across as a hard bitch, you know that, Alyssa? Anyway,
forget I said that – you still owe me one.’
    A favour for him stopping Harry Embsay from throttling me. It was totally true that without Jayden and Bolt I wouldn’t still be alive, but somehow with Jayden it didn’t pay to show
gratitude. ‘You saved me, now you want me to help you get your mate out of jail. OK, I’ll try.’
    Still glaring, he waited for me to come up with something.
    ‘Do you know why they arrested him?’
    ‘Socos picked up fingerprints on the wrench they found.’
    ‘Scene-of-crime officers? Alex’s prints?’
    Jayden nodded. ‘Plus, it turns out he didn’t have an alibi for the time Scarlett was killed.’
    ‘But he told me his dad dragged him off to a family party.’
    ‘Yeah, but he made an excuse and left before midnight – the cops dragged that out of one of the cousins.’
    ‘Not good,’ I muttered as Bolt disappeared round the back of the flimsy tent. I went through the few facts I’d picked up from my meeting with Alex. ‘He didn’t
mention that. And there’s something else that I’ve been wondering about – which is why didn’t Alex try to contact Scarlett on New Year’s Day? They’d only been
together for a week, but from what I hear he was totally into her. Ursula said he’d practically stalked her for weeks before she agreed to go out with him. So he would want to talk to her,
send texts, meet her every chance he got.’
    ‘How do we know he didn’t?’ Jayden asked the same thing Sammy Beckett had at Ainslee station.
    ‘We don’t.’ For the first time I heard scuffling noises from inside the tent then the sound of Velcro being unfastened. A figure in white overalls emerged and yelled at us.
    ‘Is this your dog?’ the police forensic woman demanded.
    Bolt reappeared, still sniffing and peeing against the side of the tent.
    ‘Call him, Jayden!’ I muttered under my breath.
    ‘He’s contaminating a crime scene,’ the woman warned. ‘If this is your Staffie, grab him before I get our dog handlers to come and deal with him.’
    ‘Call him!’ I hissed.
    ‘Heel!’ Jayden said between clenched teeth, and Bolt obeyed.
    ‘Let’s go,’ I told him, turning back the way we’d come. I was eager to leave because the place where Scarlett had died was seedy – high walls and rotting fences to
one side, the frozen canal to the other – and it was all too easy to picture her lonely, dark, violent death. They’d found the wrench used as a weapon, which of course had further
implicated Alex.

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