Killing Time is pleased to be able to host this exclusive extract from James Nally’s Alone with the Dead.
Meet PC Donal Lynch. Irish runaway. Insomniac. Functioning alcoholic.
Donal is new to working the beat in London, trying his best to forget that night. After all, there aren’t many police officers who can say they have a convicted murderer for an ex-girlfriend.
So when a woman is murdered on his patch, Donal throws himself into the case. As the first person on the scene, Donal can’t forget the horrific sight that faced him – and he knows this case can’t go unsolved. But how do you solve a case with no lead suspect and no evidence?
As his past catches up with him, Donal is forced to confront his demons and the girl he left behind. But what will crack first, the case or Donal?
‘Try not to touch anything,’ hissed Clive, and I thought about letting the door slam into his thick head.
I floated up the stairs towards the first floor flat, adrenaline numbing my feet to the carpet beneath.
She lay on the landing, on her side, an untamed red mane of hair sprawled almost ceremonially across the carpet. Her moon-white face lay awkwardly on her outstretched arm; her bloodshot blue eyes staring into nothingness. She looked no more than twenty-five, probably younger.
Her sad mouth had cried blood. One trail made it all the way down to her slender white throat. Her flowery summer dress was laddered with stab wounds – still fresh. My head swooned. I leaned back against the wall of the landing, exhaled hard.
Clive bent down and placed a reluctant finger to her porcelain neck.
‘She put up a hell of a fight,’ he said flatly, ‘but she’s dead.’
He backed away apologetically. My eyes fastened upon her limp hand, focusing upon the nail hanging from her little finger which had almost been completely ripped off. Sadness flooded me. My stinging eyes blinked and shifted to the floor next to her: a set of keys, a handbag, her jacket, some post.
‘She must have let her killer in,’ I squeaked, sounding every bit as shocked as I felt.
‘Looks like it,’ said Clive, reassuringly unmoved.
‘Right,’ he added brightly, ‘best get back downstairs. We don’t want to contaminate the crime scene.’
A cold breath chilled the right side of my face. I turned to see a small window on the landing, slightly open. ‘Fuck,’ I said. All this time, I’d been standing between her newly dead body and an open window. Where I came from, this spelt doom. I shivered, then snapped myself out of it. There was work to be done.
I’d never understood officers who said that, in really stressful situations, ‘your training kicks in’. I did now. Clive started questioning Chiselled Ginge and taking notes. His name was Peter Ryan. He was twenty-eight. The dead woman was his wife of thirteen months, Marion, aged twenty-three.
She usually got home before six. He and Karen – a colleague from work – got back just after nine and found her like that on the landing. Police officers and forensics were wandering in, so I went outside to find Karen.
In the darkening, humming summer night, Sangora Road flashed blue and red, a grotesque carnival of morbid curiosity. Neighbours who’d never shared a word before chatted intently: lots of ‘apparently’ and ‘oh my God’. The petite, curly-haired brunette I assumed to be Karen was being comforted by a group of middle-aged men. One edgy-looking sleaze ball in a wife-beater vest and school-shooter combats rubbed her upper arm vigorously. He looked like a man who spent his life hunting down any kind of a leg-over whatsoever.
‘Karen?’ I asked. She looked up sharply, surprised by the sound of her own name. ‘PC Donal Lynch. Sorry, but I’m going to have to ask you a few questions.’ Her arm rubber – a Poster Boy for Families Need Fathers – glared at me, ready to back up his potential new squeeze against the filth.
Karen took a long deep breath and nodded. Instead of structured questions, I let her ramble. In a quivering, childlike, barely audible voice, she told me the following: her name was Karen Foster, twenty-five, from Lee in South East London, a colleague of Pete’s at the Pines old people’s home in Lambeth. She told me Pete was the gardener there. She’d given him a lift back to his flat tonight to pick up some heavy pots to take back to the home, where she lived in staff accommodation. They’d got here just after nine. He had unlocked the front door, then the door to their flat and went in first. Pete had stopped suddenly on the stairs and screamed, ‘Marion, Marion!’ He went to her. Karen had followed and saw Marion lying there. She checked for signs of life.
She shivered. Arm Rubber gave me a look that said: ‘C’mon mate, I think she’s had enough’, but I hadn’t.
Alone with the Dead is out now in paperback and ebook from Avon. A review of the book will follow later today.