Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Bitter Blue by Cath Staincliffe (Allison and Busby 2003)

I led my new client downstairs and into the room. It was cooler in there and I switched on the convector heater, hung up our coats and offered her a drink.

'Coffee would be nice.' Her manner softened a little. 'Just milk please.'

'I forgot to ask you on the phone, how did you hear about me?' It's useful to find out how clients arrive.

'Yellow Pages, you were the nearest to me.'

Word of mouth counted for the bulk of my enquiries, the rest came via the phone book as this one had.

'Where are you?'

'Levenshulme,' she smiled.

I guessed she was in her late twenties. She was slightly built with glossy brown hair which she had drawn back and clasped in a leather barrette. She wore small gold teardrop earrings and an engagement ring on her left hand. Her eyes were almond shaped, blue like faded denim, her mouth small, the lips coloured a high gloss carmine shade. She wore a tailored red suit and court shoes, which, along with the polished make-up, made me think of an air-stewardess or a beautician. Someone whose job description included the words well-groomed. Elegant not flash.

I handed her coffee and sat down opposite her at my desk. As yet I'd no idea why she required the services of a private investigator. She had booked an appointment without disclosing her problem. A lot of people do that; they prefer to speak face to face.

Blowing on my coffee I took a cautious sip. Then pulled pen and paper towards me. 'What can I do for you?'

'It's this.' She opened the black leather handbag on her knee and drew out a sheet of paper. 'Came through my door.' It was folded in half. Plain paper, A4. She slid it across me. Nodded that I should open it.

I did.

YoU arE DEAd BITch

I flinched: an instinctive reaction. A death threat. 

Four words. The letters taken from different sources, newsprint, magazines, stuck side by side.

I met her gaze.

She pulled a face, her shoulders joining in the shrug. 'I want you to find out who sent it.

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