Splinter the Silence
the thought crossed her mind, Paula’s phone rang, the screen revealing the caller was her former boss. ‘Hi, chief,’ Paula answered automatically.

‘I think I’ve found another one,’ Carol said. ‘And this time it’s right in your backyard.’

Tony knew that adamantine tone of voice. Might as well try to argue with El Capitan. And if he was honest, he wasn’t sorry to avoid discussing Carol’s court appearance, a subject that would only lead to tension and awkwardness between them. The morning would be soon enough to deal with that. ‘Sparkling water?’ he asked, waving the green plastic bottle with a placatory smile.

Carol turned her head, looking down at the table. ‘Why not?’ It came out as a snarl.

They helped themselves to pasta and salad in silence. Three forks’ worth in, Tony said, ‘So, did Paula know about the Daisy Morton business already?’

Carol shook her head, chewing a mouthful of salad. She swallowed, washed it down with a swig of water and said, ‘It never crossed Paula’s professional radar – Daisy lived outside the city centre, in Northern Division territory. But fortunately for us, Paula has a good contact up there. A DS called Franny Riley. He looks like the missing link between Neanderthal Man and rugby league, but he’s actually a pretty shrewd operator. She’s going to talk to him and see what he’s got to say beyond the official reports.’

‘Does she agree with you, that this might be another one that fits the pattern?’

‘She’s not completely convinced. Kate and Jasmine, they were clear-cut suicides. No doubt about it. But Daisy’s death looks less well-defined.’

Tony paused with his fork halfway to his mouth. ‘That’s not necessarily an issue. Real life isn’t neat and unambiguous. Stuff often happens outside the control zone of the criminal, stuff that plays havoc with their careful plans.’

Carol nodded. ‘I know. And if I’ve learned one thing from you, it’s that serial offenders aren’t static. They develop. They change what they do, how they do it, because they come up with better ways to get to where they’re aiming for in their twisted, fucked-up imagination. So in a way, it would be more surprising if there was an identical pattern time and time again.’

‘So what is it about Daisy’s death that makes you uneasy?’

Carol drank more water, reaching for the bottle to top up her glass. Giving up alcohol had made her thirst constantly. She felt as if she’d drunk gallons of tea, coffee and water in the past couple of days. And none of it satisfied her desire. But right now, the act of refilling her water gave her a moment’s pause to get her thoughts in order. ‘According to the inquest, the pathologist said she’d died from asphyxiation from the inhalation of gas. You have to work extremely hard to kill yourself using natural gas. There has to be a pretty intense level of concentration. I looked it up, and to be sure of it killing you, you need seventy-five per cent gas to air.’

‘That’s not impossible, surely? I mean, wouldn’t she basically have to turn on the gas and wait for the room to fill up?’

‘It’s not quite that straightforward. Natural gas is heavier than air so it forms a layer close to the ground. It seeps away under doors and through gaps in the floor.’

‘But she was close to the ground, right? You said something about her having her head in the oven?’

Carol nodded pensively. ‘But it was an electric oven.’

‘So why…?’ Tony’s voice trailed away and he stared over her shoulder. Carol knew the look of old. The wheels were going round, taking Tony in a direction that most other people wouldn’t even consider. ‘It’s not a very reliable way of killing yourself, is it?’

‘Depends what you’re planning,’ Carol said. ‘You’re right, it’s a bit chancy in terms of asphyxiation, but on the other hand, if you’ve filled the house with gas, all it takes is someone turning on a

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