The Night She Died – Jenny Blackhurst Extract
Don't miss the start of Jenny Blackhurst's gripping new thriller - THE NIGHT SHE DIED. Read the extract now!
Posted on September 6, 2018 in Extract
Tags: Extract, Jenny Blackhurst, The Night She Died, psychological thriller
She stands on the edge of the cliff, long blonde hair fluttering behind her in the light breeze. Her feet under her floor-length gown are bare and grubby, and the grass beneath them is damp, but she doesn’t feel the cold. Gazing out across the dark, still water she is at peace. Evelyn doesn’t need to look down to know that the sea laps against jagged rocks at the foot of the cliff, she isn’t afraid of them. She has stood before this sea many times before. The waves know her name, know her story.
She lifts a hand to remove the veil from her face, the diamond tiara which once belonged to her mother, and her mother before that, falls to the floor without a sound. There is no noise up here, none except the whispering of the sea and that of her own breathing, slow and gentle.
Two figures are watching from the twilight shadows across the cliffs. They are further away than she would have liked, but the night is clear enough for them to make out her tall supple form, her fitted wedding gown. Close enough to identify her to her husband, too far to react when they realise her intentions. For now, for the next few seconds, she is a newlywed, taking time away from the intensity of her wedding day, escaping the music and the wine, the constant flow of congratulatory jokes about married life. They are lovers, enjoying their balmy evening stroll, imagining that
one day their friends will gather to hear their vows, offer their congratulations to the bride, commiserations to the groom. As the woman lets go of her veil and watches it flutter towards the cliff edge she steps forward, confident and unhesitant, and hurls herself into the darkness. A few moments ago they were just lovers. Now they are witnesses.
The Night of the Wedding
The remaining wedding guests gather on the lawn, sobered by shock, stunned into silence by their grief. A woman, Evelyn’s Great Aunt Beth, sobs quietly into a handkerchief handed to her by her husband, a slip of a man, weak-chested and weak-willed. Only three hours ago he had frowned and nodded in all the right places while Beth had complained about everything from the ‘bohemian’ ceremony, music, décor and the ‘downright hippy’ friends Evelyn had made herself. How her late niece, Evelyn’s mother, would be turning in her still-fresh grave to see her friends and family associating with such classlessness. Now silence prevails as it seems her daughter will be joining her.
My heart thuds as I stand outside the hotel door, listening to muted voices interspersed with furious outbursts. Richard. I brace myself to go in, but falter as Richard begins to shout again, screaming that he should be out searching, that his wife would not have done this to him. This is my cue – I know that as Evie’s best friend and maid of honour I have my part to play – but suddenly I don’t want to open that door. I don’t want to see the look on Richard’s face or watch his heart breaking.
Footsteps the other side of the door shock me into action and I slam my fist against it.
‘Richard!’ It opens almost immediately, and behind it stands one of the police officers I’d seen lead Richard away twenty minutes before. The longest twenty minutes of my life. ‘I need to speak to Richard.’
‘I’m sorry,’ he begins, but a voice from inside cuts him off.
‘Let her in,’ Richard says, and the sigh of resignation tells me what I need to know. ‘She’s Evie’s best friend, she deserves to hear this.’
The police officer steps to one side and I barrel past him into the small hotel room, with its whitewashed walls andnear-perfect view of the cliffs. The same cliffs Richard Bradley’s wife has just thrown herself from.
‘Richard!’ I hurl myself at him, grasping his forearms.
‘Where’s Evie? They’re saying downstairs that she jumped off the cliff, but that’s crazy. Where is she?’
When he doesn’t speak I shake him, but he still can’t say the words. One of the police officers, the woman, looks as though she wants to cry as she steps forward and places a hand on my arm and gently but firmly guides me away.
‘My name is Detective Michelle Green, this is Detective Thomas.’
First-name Michelle’s voice is slow and kind, Detective Thomas just stands there looking brooding. He is tall and broad, olive skin and dark hair. He looks like a TV cop – but so far it’s a non-speaking part. Every now and then he gives me an appraising look, one that makes me feel guilty, like I’m doing something wrong for being here. He’s just watching, waiting. What for?
‘We’ve had reports of a woman fitting Evelyn’s description seen entering the water around forty minutes ago. Have you seen Mrs Bradley in the last hour?’
I picture my best friend the last time I saw her, forty-five minutes ago. She is walking towards the edge of the marquee when she turns back. She seeks me out, and as our eyes meet she gives me a reassuring smile. She doesn’t look afraid, as I am, she is unflinching and unhesitant. She turns away and disappears into the darkness and for a split second I want to run after her, grab her and not let go. But my feet don’t move, and the moment is gone. She is gone.
‘No,’ I say. ‘I haven’t seen her.’ I’ve sobbed until my eyes are raw and tight, real tears that take me by surprise. That’s it then, a voice in my mind says. She’s gone. You’re on your own. And the thought is almost too much to bear.
Richard is still talking to the police, and I get the impression they are keeping him here so he won’t go to the clifftop, so he won’t do anything stupid. I am staring out of the window at where torches are panning the area, and where the white lights of the search and rescue helicopter light up the sky.
‘They have a helicopter,’ I say, and my voice sounds as though it belongs to someone else. I wish it did, then those lights would be seeking out someone else’s best friend in the darkness.
‘Which is only just arriving. It’s been nearly a fucking hour,’ Richard blasts. He walks to the window then immediately back, chewing at the loose skin on his top lip – an annoying habit that pops up when he’s anxious. ‘She’ll be freezing. And why are they concentrating on below the cliffs? She could have swum halfway back to London by now.’
Because they aren’t looking for a woman swimming. I don’t want to say the words, and neither do the police, Richard has to come to the obvious conclusion himself. That tonight his wife, my best friend, jumped into the sea to die. And I’m the only person who knows why.