Before I Find You exclusive extract
Before I Find You by Ali Knight
Posted on October 31, 2018 in Extract, Uncategorized
Before I Find You is Ali Knight’s newest psychological thriller. Read below for an exclusive Crime Files extract!
The night of
I don’t know what’s happened but I know it’s bad. It always is, when you wake up on the floor, a bad taste in the mouth and blood in your eyes. It feels like youth and I’ve been running from that for as long as I can remember. The summer heat has cooked the paving slabs so they smell of tar and oil and something nastier – I can’t breathe.
I hear squealing brakes as I try and suck something into my shocked and emptied lungs, images are scrambling in my brain and I’m trying to put them in order. A new, sickening sensation overwhelms me – the dark shape next to me on the ground isn’t moving. Panic forms a cloud.
A tear rolls away across my face. The last few moments are coming back to me in violent flashes. The figure next to me is never going to move again. I heard the pop, as clear as a boot stamping on a Styrofoam cup in a gutter, of spine snapping as we landed – as clear a death sentence as any. Someone screams. Dread fills me and I arch my back, desperate to know if I will ever get off this floor, out of this God-awful mess and even if I do, how much of this will have been my fault?
The yellow rectangle of light from the window above me shimmers through my tears. She’s standing there so calm and still, looking down, and my panic is snuffed out by fear.
Eight weeks before
I was always intrigued when a real bobby-dazzler walked into my office and asked for my help. It proved yet again that no one is immune from betrayal – no matter how rich, famous or physically blessed, every walk of life needed my services: a husband watcher. I was a snooper, a sex detective, a marriage doctor, a destroyer of dreams, a killer of happy-ever-afters. I had spent my career down amongst the grubby pain of love betrayed, of lies exposed. Beauty wouldn’t save you, money couldn’t insulate you from it. The woman in the doorway proved just that. She smelled rich and she was a babe.
‘Don’t be shy, come on in,’ I said. I was in a good mood, joshing and joking with Simona, the studious young Italian who worked for me.
The woman in the doorway was blonde, casually dressed, hard to put an age to but somewhere just north of forty, and scared as hell.
She stepped uncertainly into the room and Simona jumped up and closed the door behind her. ‘Please, take a seat,’ she said, holding out her hand towards the sofa.
The woman declined our offer of coffee or tea so Simona gave her a glass of water.
The woman perched on the edge of a small sofa near the window, her ankles and knees clamped together in a pose that the royals used to guarantee no knicker shots. Her blue eyes roamed over the three desks in the room, mine, Simona’s and Rory’s, over my retro filing cabinet and the pot plants and the black fan that only gets used on the three hottest days of the year. I couldn’t tell if she was impressed by my stripped wood floors or my linen blinds, but I was. I loved my office and I loved my job. ‘How can I help you?’ I asked. There was silence for a moment. The woman looked at her hands helplessly, twiddled with her wedding ring and gripped her bag. ‘God, this is so embarrassing.’ She tailed off, her voice was quiet. She conjured up English country gardens and mellow stone walls, scones and cricket matches and all that Olde English stuff.
Simona gave me a conspiratorial look and made herself scarce by heading into the small kitchen off the main room to make fresh coffee and pull out some little Italian cakes that always oiled the wheels when a client came in. ‘OK, let’s start at the beginning,’ I said. ‘I’m Maggie Malone, I run the Blue and White agency, and I’m going to find out if he’s cheating on you. I’ll tell you who he’s cheating with, where and how, I’ll show you the video, pictures or audio evidence if you want to see or hear it. And you’ll pay me.’ I smiled. Her mouth fell open, but only for a moment. ‘And then you get to skip all the bits where he claims it was a misunderstanding and he’s innocent and all that. It saves you a lot of time.’
I usually got one of three reactions at this point: tears, anger, or an empty seat and a banging door. Very rarely I got a fourth: she sat bolt still for about three seconds and then she burst out laughing. It was the first cocktail of the evening, that smile. She put her bag on the floor and sat back, twirling a shapely ankle that poked beneath her trousers.
She ran her hands down her shiny hair, clasped them in front of her over her knees. Her beauty came out when she relaxed. ‘I think you and I are going to get on very well.’
I’d always been Marmite, people either loved me or hated me. This lady was a snob and I was a yob, and often opposites attract. Some people disliked what I do, they found it grubby and underhand, but I say, wouldn’t you want to know if he was cheating? Wouldn’t you open that envelope, click on that video file? Of course you would and anyone who says otherwise is a hypocrite.
I stood up and came over and we shook hands.
‘I’m Helene Moreau,’ she said.
Of course she had a name like that. Exotic, classy, I guessed the husband was French. There was no ‘which Helene?’ for
her. She was one of a kind.
‘And how can I help you, Helene?’
Simona arrived back in the room with fresh coffee in a cup and a cake plate decorated with flowers, on which sat the Italian biscuits. This time she took both without hesitation. She sighed. ‘I want you to tell me if I’m married to a cheating bastard.’