Read an extract from Sarah Hilary’s NEVER BE BROKEN

Read an extract from Sarah Hilary's gripping latest in the Marnie Rome series, NEVER BE BROKEN.

Posted on March 13, 2019 in Extract
Tags: Extract, Never Be Broken, marnie rome, sarah hilary

Now

The car alarm was still shrieking when Marnie reached the crime scene.

‘Can’t we shut that off?’ She’d heard it from two streets away, a giddy note of outrage under London’s morning soundtrack, making her want to turn her own car around and head the other way. But here she was, doing her job, with a police crime-scene officer so young she looked around for a grown-up. ‘Surely we can shut it off?’

It was hard enough being this close to the wreckage – twisted metal, bloodied broken glass – without the sickening wail from inside the vehicle.

‘The sensor’s bust.’ The young PCSO wiped at his mouth. ‘Believe me, we’ve tried.’

Marnie turned away to rest her eyes, waiting for the pain in her chest to ease, or at least to blunt a little. She was finding it hard to breathe. Her throat was pinched tight with panic, and with guilt. Guilt rode with her most days, but panic was a new companion. She was unused to its temperament, the hiccupy whispering in her ear: Are we there yet? Are we done?

Behind her, cars crawled two lanes deep, the morning’s rush hour reduced to horns and hand signals. White noise rushed up from the ring road, whiplashing when it hit the tailback. The dregs of the sound slipped around the sides of Erskine Tower to find her.

She didn’t look at the tower; she didn’t need to. It was there at the periphery of her vision, would be there if she walked a quarter of a mile in any direction. Three hundred and thirty feet of municipal sixties high-rise, a crude concrete finger flipping off the rest of west London. From street level, the block was gaunt, its shadow a chilly welt running up the road from the low-lying bohemia of Notting Hill before striking out for Ealing, queen of London’s suburbs. You wouldn’t want to be here after dark, but at 8 a.m., the neighbourhood was hung-over, abandoned. Flanked by that rarest of London landmarks: unmetered parking spaces, a greater abomination in the eyes of city planners than the ugly high-rise itself.

This morning, empty flags of sky hung either side of Erskine Tower. Smoke was seeping from a window at the very top, so far away it looked like a cloud unravelling. If she stood very still and held her breath in her chest, it was a day like any other.

Rain spotted her face. One of those arbitrary handfuls that falls on a dry day, smelling of rust and copper. Unless it was the smell of blood from the ruined bonnet of the car. Her skin recoiled. She took a step back, away.

The PCSO warned, ‘Mind your feet, ma’am.’

She looked down to see Noah Jake’s shirt twisted in the gutter.

Are we there yet? Are we done?

Noah’s shirt. She recognised the blue cotton, its smooth weave stained by the same blood that was running from the bonnet to pool under the car’s front tyre. The shrill of the alarm drowned out the smaller sounds of brittle chips of glass falling from the wreckage. An Audi, Noah had taken it from the police station less than an hour ago. She hadn’t looked up when he’d said he was heading out; only nodded with her eyes on the morning’s paperwork. She hadn’t said, ‘Good luck,’ or, ‘Take care,’ or anything at all. He’d gone without a glance from her, without a word.

‘What a mess.’ The PCSO sucked air between his teeth.

Marnie lifted a hand to brush the rain from her face, holding it there for a long moment to block out the drunken lurch of the tower. Seeing through the bars of her fingers all the ways in which the morning’s chaos had altered everything.

Sarah Hilary’s NEVER BE BROKEN publishes 16th May

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