Читать онлайн «Her Last Breath: The new gripping summer page-turner from the No 1 bestseller»
‘Not if you’re going to offer me those,’ he said, looking at the dish of burnt flapjacks.
Estelle followed his gaze. She was going to see if she could salvage them in some way; she hated waste. She’d seen enough of it when she’d lived with the Garlands. But Seb was right, they were a lost cause.
‘I have some chia energy balls in the fridge,’ she said, forcing a smile. ‘Let’s have some outside with some peppermint tea.’
Seb smiled. ‘Sounds great.’
A few minutes later, they were both sitting in the rooftop garden. Estelle looked around, trying to still her busy mind. When she’d moved in, it was just made up of fake grass. Seb hadn’t had time to maintain a garden with his busy schedule before his injury: daily intensive training, media interviews and appearances, meetings with his trainer, all meaning his house and garden were neglected. She’d set about changing that, paving it over with beautiful reclaimed stones, and introducing vegetable and fruit boxes. She’d also put up trellises around the edges, interlacing fairy lights with a variety of climbing fruit plants. Whenever anyone came around, they commented on how pretty it was. It played a part in her book too, a whole section on creating your own ‘city allotment’ at home. It usually calmed her sitting out here, especially when it was early summer: not too hot nor too cold, the tops of the trees heavy with blossom, the sun a warm yellow globe above.
But there was no sense of calm today, the Polaroid photo kept playing on her mind.
‘That girl we were talking about last night hasn’t returned yet,’ Seb said. Estelle froze. ‘They’ve delayed my radio piece because of some special on runaway kids,’ he added.
‘Oh, Seb,’ Estelle said, leaning across and placing her hand over his. ‘I’m sorry about that; I know how excited you were about it.’
He shook his head in disgust. ‘And all for a teenager. She’s probably gone off with some boyfriend or another.’
Estelle closed her eyes. She had to say something. ‘Seb, I need to talk to you.’
He frowned, putting his paper down. ‘What’s wrong?’
‘I received this strange photo in my meat delivery this morning.’
She showed him the photo she’d taken of it on her phone – the real photo she’d placed in a drawer in her office.
He examined it then peered up at her. ‘I don’t understand.’
‘Don’t you recognise the girl?’
He looked closer, then it dawned on him. ‘The presenter’s daughter. Why the hell would you receive a photo of her?’
‘I have no idea.’
‘Have you called the police?’
‘Of course. I’m not sure they’re taking it too seriously.’
‘But the message written on it!’
‘You’re telling me.’ She stood up. ‘I need some fresh air. I might go for a bike ride.’
Seb looked up at her in surprise. ‘You’re not going to even tell me what it means?’
‘I have no idea myself! I’m sorry, there’s not much more to say. I – I need to get out.’ She grabbed her keys and jacket, giving Seb a quick peck on the cheek. ‘I’ll be back in an hour.’
As she headed out of the door, she heard the clink of glass and the hiss of Seb opening a bottle of beer in the kitchen. Fine, if that was the way he wanted to cope. This was her way. She wasn’t prepared to open up about her past. She wanted it to remain there, not here in her present life.
She went around the side of the house and got her bike from the shed, jumping on it and pedalling straight to the Thames. It was busy out (wasn’t it always in London?), but there was a jovial feel in the air too, smiles on people’s faces as they took in the sun’s soft rays.
But Estelle couldn’t feel happy. She mulled over the photo and the note scrawled on it. The words rang a vague bell. I know everything about you. Maybe they meant her past. Her parents. Was it a threat to expose her background? Not great for someone who was advocating pure and healthy living. And then there was what happened in Lillysands.
But what did all this have to do with Poppy?
She pedalled faster, harder, her breath quickening to catch up with the thoughts running through her mind.
‘Watch out!’ someone shouted.
Estelle looked up to see she’d nearly knocked a man over.
‘Sorry!’ she shouted over her shoulder. She slowed down, calming her breath. In the distance, she saw Borough Market. She jumped off her bike and pushed it towards the market, immersing herself in the hubbub of the stalls, breathing in the scent of spices, the tangy meat and salty fish. The market calmed her, the familiarity of all the smells and noises; the nod to her normal routine. It felt to her like everything had changed with the arrival of that photo; her whole world had tilted on its axis.
She’d felt that way when she’d been taken from her parents too. Out of control, floating on a turbulent sea, but also the certain knowledge things were to change for good.
She needed an anchor now just as she did then. An anchor in familiarity.
She stopped in front of a fruit and veg stall, taking in the exuberant colours in front of her. She picked up a papaya, cupping her hand around it and weighing it, feeling its yellow skin with her thumb. It yielded slightly. Ripe. Delicious.
She looked up to see her greengrocer, a stocky man with a pierced ear, smiling at her.
‘Hi Tomas.’ She handed over the fruit.
He frowned. ‘Just this today?’
‘Just this,’ she replied, distracted, her mind too full to focus on buying anything else.
Why? she kept asking herself. Why send it to her?
Estelle paid for the papaya then walked back into the crowds, leaving the market and finding a quiet alleyway as she pulled out her phone. She needed to find out more about Poppy O’Farrell.
There must be some kind of connection.
She explored all the articles she could find about Poppy, eyes glancing over her pretty face in the various photos of her; the familiar media shots of her famous father.
Then a headline came up, a story from that morning. As she took it in, Estelle went completely still.
Poppy O’Farrell Adopted
‘Oh Jesus,’ she whispered. The walls of the alleyway seemed to press in around her.
Calm down, she told herself. Plenty of kids are adopted.
She snuck a look at the photo she’d taken of the Polaroid on her phone, at the girl’s brown eyes, the brown roots showing …
Estelle closed her eyes, heart thumping. Then she quickly dialled the number DC Jones had given her. He picked up within a few rings.
‘It’s Estelle Forster, we spoke earlier,’ she said in a hurry. ‘I just read Poppy O’Farrell’s adopted. Is it true?’
A sigh. ‘Yes, I heard that had got out. Why are you asking?’
‘It’s just—’ Estelle paused.
‘Just what?’ the detective pushed.
Estelle swallowed, mouth feeling unbearably dry. ‘I – I gave a baby up for adoption fifteen years ago, a girl.’ She thought of the photo of Poppy again … brown eyes just like Estelle’s.
‘I see,’ the detective replied slowly. ‘Where did you give birth?’
‘Lillysands, a town in Devon.’
He paused a moment. ‘I think we should come and have a chat with you now, Estelle.’
Estelle leaned against the wall, blinking away tears.
Was Poppy O’Farrell the beautiful baby girl she’d said goodbye to fifteen years earlier?
Chapter Five (#)
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