Читать онлайн «Her Last Breath: The new gripping summer page-turner from the No 1 bestseller»
I see you standing there. Can you sense me watching you?
You’re usually so good at hiding your feelings. Not now though.
You look so sad. So confused.
I ought to feel guilty. And yes, it oozes at the back of my mind, briefly. But it doesn’t take much to shut it down.
You deserve this, after all.
You told me you felt like this when they put you into care. Like you were helpless on a stormy sea. But then Autumn and Max came along, your anchors.
Well, they’re not here for you now, are they?
So maybe you’ll drown.
And then you’d be really pure, not just covering up the filth inside like you’re doing now with grown-up dresses and pretty hair.
But clean inside and out, just like you told me you wanted to be.
And then you’ll realise what you’ve done.
You’ll understand why I’m doing what I’m doing.
To save you, in a way. To save all of us.
Chapter Six (#)
Estelle cycled back home in a frenzy, heart galloping, mouth dry. By the time she got there, there was a police car outside. She placed her bike back in its shed then took a deep breath and walked inside.
Seb was chatting to two police officers in the kitchen, a man and a woman. Estelle quickly looked in the mirror in the hallway, smoothing down her hair. Reflected back at her were her startled brown eyes, skin ashen beneath her tan.
‘Hello,’ she said, walking into the kitchen.
‘These officers wanted to talk to you about the photo, Estelle,’ Seb said, an edge in his voice. He was clearly still annoyed at Estelle for rushing out like that.
‘I’m Detective Richard Jones,’ the man said, putting his hand out to Estelle. He looked younger than she’d expected, late twenties. But Estelle had a feeling he was older. ‘And this is PC Alex Thorburn.’
The policewoman, pretty with long dark hair up in a ponytail, smiled at Estelle.
‘Mind if we chat alone?’ the detective asked Seb.
‘Sure,’ Seb said. ‘That okay, Estelle?’ He was looking into her eyes like he wanted her to insist on him staying.
But she didn’t. ‘It’s fine.’
Seb grabbed his hoodie then gave Estelle a hard look before heading outside. Estelle turned back to the officers; she had more important things to deal with.
‘First thing’s first,’ the detective said. ‘Can we see the photo?’
‘I just need to get it from my office. Would you like a drink?’ Estelle asked, unable to help herself going into host mode despite wanting to scream one big question at the police officers: ‘Is Poppy O’Farrell my daughter?’
‘Coffee would be great actually,’ the detective said with a wry smile as he sat on one of the stools. ‘Was on the late shift last night.’
‘I’m afraid I don’t have any coffee. But I have green tea?’ The detective wrinkled his nose slightly. ‘There’s caffeine in it,’ she quickly added.
‘You sound like my wife. All right, that’ll be great, thanks.’
‘Same for you?’ she asked the female police officer. PC Thorburn nodded.
Estelle quickly flicked the kettle on then went to her office, using the chance to compose herself out of sight. The fact they were here, and so quickly too, clearly meant there was a clear connection now. She retrieved the Polaroid photo and stared down at Poppy, a storm of emotions running through her.
Could it be …?
She took a deep breath, then walked back towards the kitchen, handing the Polaroid over to the detective. He looked at it for a few moments.
‘It is Poppy O’Farrell in the photo, isn’t it?’ she asked.
‘Looks like it.’
Estelle went to the kettle, pouring boiling water over two teabags, trying to stop her hands from trembling.
‘Do you know who her birth parents are?’ she asked carefully, taking the mugs over to the two officers as she examined their faces.
‘Not yet,’ the detective said. ‘But we know where she was born.’
Estelle took in a deep breath. ‘It was Lillysands, wasn’t it?’
The two officers exchanged a look.
‘As I said, we can’t divulge that information yet,’ the detective replied.
Estelle scrutinised the detective’s face. ‘Okay. You can tell me Poppy’s date of birth though, can’t you?’
He held her gaze then pulled his notepad out. ‘Twenty-eighth of April, 2002,’ he said to Estelle.
Estelle’s head started to buzz. This was it, proof.
It was the same date she gave birth.
She pulled a chair out, its metal legs scraping against the floor, and slumped down on it, putting her head in her hands as she got a brief flash of memory: soft brown hair, red face, a tiny body …
Poppy was her daughter. She had to be. It explained why Estelle may have been targeted with the photo; why the police had arrived quicker than they’d first said.
She looked over at the photo.
Someone knew about her connection to Poppy and they had sent her that photo as a way of – what? – telling her that?
She looked up at the officers. ‘She’s my daughter, isn’t she?’
The detective sighed. ‘We can’t know for sure.’
He didn’t say anything but the look in his eyes told her all she needed to know. Estelle felt a debilitating mixture of emotions: elation that she’d got to know the face of the child she gave up. Fear that same girl was missing. And then trepidation that someone knew about that child, someone who wanted to torment her.
‘Is this a recent photo?’ Estelle asked. ‘Do you think it was taken after Poppy ran away?’
‘We can’t be sure until we show it to her parents,’ Detective Jones said.
Parents. That stung Estelle, but she buried the hurt down. They were Poppy’s parents, of course they were, she was silly to be hurt.
‘But she’s wearing the same top she wore the day she ran away, look,’ the policewoman said. ‘Her mum told us it was brand new, only got it the day before. Plus her hair is red too, her dad said she only dyed it a couple of weeks ago.’
‘Yes, I noticed,’ the detective said.
‘So we have to assume whoever took this photo,’ Estelle said, ‘is with Poppy right now. They know me; they’re threatening me.’
‘I wouldn’t call it a threat,’ the detective said.
‘Not exactly nice though, is it? If they’re with Poppy, they—’
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