The Detective's Daughter

The Detective's Daughter by Lesley Thomson

Book: The Detective's Daughter by Lesley Thomson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lesley Thomson
reached up and smashed the hole punch against the bedroom ceiling, intending to flush out whoever was there. Silence.
    The next time she risked going all the way up, her body tensed for an attack; she ventured on to boarding which sprang but held her weight. Except for a few boxes the loft was empty, and there was nowhere to hide in the chimney recesses or under the eaves. Then she saw the source of the draught: the skylight was tilted open. She levered it down with a bang and shut out the low-level scrawl of the A40; only her breathing was audible. She pulled herself together: Terry had forgotten to close the window and turn off the light.
    A dented Revelation suitcase lay on its side out of the path of the retracting ladder. Stella recognized it: she had bounced on its lid to help lock it for their last ever summer holiday. While her mum assembled clothes, a first-aid kit, washing things, Stella had furtively explored the pockets with elastic tops, played with the straps and stroked the silky lining within which she discovered grains of sand and broken shells; vestiges of other holidays. Terry strode ahead to the bus stop, holding the case lightly as if it were empty, while her mother let the gap widen, apparently to keep pace with Stella – except when Stella had tried to catch up with Terry, her mum had tugged her arm. Stella had invested all her hopes in the pinch of sand. Terry had promised that they would make a castle with a moat but she did not remember that they had. Home again, she had crawled inside the case and shut the lid but no one had come to find her.
    Behind the suitcase was a carton which had held twenty boxes of Kellogg’s Coco Pops. Stella pulled open the flaps.
    A row of three plump-cheeked faces framed with stiff nylon hairstyles and sightless eyes stared out. Terry had kept her dolls. One doll cried when the string in her back was tugged; the cord cut into Stella’s fingers and she hated the sound of crying. Another doll wet herself when water was poured into a hole in her head. As a bed-wetter herself, she hated this feature even more. Beneath the dolls was a skipping rope, a bundle of dolls’ clothes, a plastic stove and a matching washing machine. Tucked in too was a uniform for playing nurses, a plastic stethoscope, a pack of cards with the Tower of London on the back and an unopened bag of marbles with a price label of ten new pence from the post office in King Street.
    Terry would bring the box into the living room after she had arrived, accompanied by a small suitcase all of her own. She would give up her coat and perch on the settee, unsure what was expected of her. The toys were never there already or they would have been easier to ignore. Instead she had to feign interest as the box was ceremoniously placed at her feet. She would listlessly stir the contents, keeping her back to Terry. He would be reading a newspaper but really watching to see if she liked her toys. So, paralysed with hopelessness and dogged by the dim conviction she would fail, but not sure how or at what, Stella had determinedly dressed and undressed the dolls, rolled marbles along the carpet and put them in the washing machine or the oven and taken them out. Later she would report to her mother that Terry had read to her, asked her about school and taken her along the towpath to collect nature. Her mother never believed her.
    By the adjoining wall was a shelf unit packed with file boxes. Stella read the title printed on every box: Katherine Rokesmith 27 July 1981 .
    There were twenty-three file boxes each tied with a ribbon. As Stella hauled down the first in the series from the left-hand side of the top shelf she kicked something. It was a camp stool. It meant that Terry had spent time here. She unfolded it, and squatting with a box at her feet, eased off the lid. The inside was crammed with papers. Stella felt a wave of nausea.
    Terry had stolen the paperwork of a murder case.
    She flipped through the contents, the

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