Not Dead Yet

Not Dead Yet by Peter James

Book: Not Dead Yet by Peter James Read Free Book Online
Authors: Peter James
the Riverside Florist, and was pleased to see the proprietor Nicola Hughes there, cutting a display of blooms for a client. He waited until she had finished, then asked her for a massive bouquet for Cleo, wanting to cheer her up when he eventually got home.
    While she was putting it together, he noticed she was limping. ‘I hope the other fellow came off worse!’ he joked.
    ‘Ha bloody ha!’ she replied. ‘Just had an ankle fusion. Ruddy well hurts but hey, you didn’t come here to listen to me complain!’
    He carried the flowers out and put them in the boot of his car. Then before driving off to his appointment with Glenn Branson in Brighton, he stared at the photograph on his BlackBerry that Cleo had texted through to him. At the words carved on her car.
    There was no mistaking its provenance. Amis Smallbone’s signature was all over it. No doubt, as before when the words had been carved on their lawn while Smallbone was securely banged up in a remand cell, he hadn’t carved them himself. A man like Smallbone would rarely get his hands dirty – except when he was having fun torturing someone, by cutting off their fingers or their ears or their genitals. But he was thinking hard about the significance.
    In his view, if Smallbone had genuinely intended Cleo to be harmed, he would have had her attacked, not simply left a message on her car like that. He needed to think hard about her security, but at this moment, he did not believe she was under any direct threat. It was more a message of defiance. Amis Smallbone wanting to worry him. Letting him know he was out of prison and had not forgotten. And it was typical of the creep to breach his releaseconditions, taunting the authorities, seeing how far he could push them.
    He was going to be very sorry, Grace vowed.

    The premises of Gresham Blake occupied a modest corner frontage on Church and Bond Streets, not far from Cleo’s house. Grace had passed the place many times, glancing with curiosity at the flamboyant displays of men’s clothes, but had never gone inside. It always looked way beyond his price range – and lifestyle. It wasn’t until Glenn Branson had started nagging him to try to look younger and more cool, that he’d ever taken any interest in clothes at all. Like most detectives, he tended to wear the same functional, sober business suits, because you never knew where you were going, or who you might meet, in the course of a day.
    At a few minutes to 11 a.m., he walked down from the Church Street multi-storey car park, the cost of which always made him wince, to see Glenn Branson standing outside the shop like he owned it, phone clamped to his ear. In the blazing sunshine, hordes of people were milling along the pavement. A marked police car screeched up the hill, siren howling, lights flashing, the sound so familiar in the city that few heads turned to look.
    ‘Any developments?’ Grace greeted him when he had ended the call and the din of the siren had faded.
    Branson pocketed his phone. ‘Nothing so far.’ Then he glanced at his watch. ‘The post-mortem’s starting in the mortuary at midday. Are you coming along?’
    ‘Thought I’d leave that treat to you, if it’s all the same. I’m chickening out.’
    Branson groaned. ‘That’s truly terrible.’
    Grace grinned, although he was not in a humorous mood. The news about Amis Smallbone’s release and the vandalism of Cleo’s car preyed heavily on his mind.
    ‘Oh, there is one thing, chief, Bella’s mum had a stroke this morning, apparently. She’s been rushed to hospital, and I’ve let Bella go and see her.’
    Grace nodded. Normally he never let anything personal interferewith work on an investigation, and particularly not during the crucial first days. But Bella Moy’s mother, he knew, was everything to the highly competent Detective Sergeant. The virtually bedridden woman was the reason why, in her mid-thirties, Bella was still living at home,

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