Nothing to Hide (DC Constance Fairchild, #2) by James Oswald Read Online (FREE)
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I always thought I’d miss London more.
Time was, the lights and bustle and sheer busyness of the place gave me a buzz as good as any drug. Growing up in the countryside, with parents still happily living in an earlier century, I leapt at the chance to come to the big city. Even Edinburgh, where I spent four glorious student years, felt small and provincial in comparison. Which is why I joined the Met rather than what was then Lothian and Borders police, I guess. London’s been my home for long enough that I might even kid myself I’m a local, but lately the shine’s gone off its attraction.
There’s the endless, unmoving traffic, for one thing. I never had a car before. Never needed one. Now I remember why that was, as I sit and watch the engine temperature gauge on my old Volvo creep slowly towards the red. Every so often a fan somewhere under the bonnet roars into life like a jumbo jet hauling itself into the air from Heathrow.
It’s dark by the time I pull into my street, my trusty car still holding on. Against all the odds, I manage to find a parking space too. Someone up there must be smiling on me. There’s a familiarity to the block, the concrete stairs climbing up to my floor, the open walkway that is almost a communal balcony for all the flats on this level. Light spills from some of the windows, but the curtains are closed on whatever lives are being lived behind them.
My front door’s a little grubbier than it was when I last closed it, although still cleaner than a year ago. I smile at the realisation that it was Roger DeVilliers who had it repainted and a new lock fitted, but the amusement is short lived. He’s the reason I’ve been away, and the reason I glance over my shoulder as I slide the key into the lock. The press have had a field day with what will likely be the trial of the decade, and I’m right in the middle of it. If I’d wanted to be photographed wherever I went, I’d have been a model or something. Not an undercover police officer.
The flat is dark as I step over the threshold and a massive pile of mail, then close the door behind me. For a moment it’s just as I remember it, and then the smell hits. Something sour and rotten, as if the drains have backed up while I’ve been away. Has it been long enough for the toilet bowl to dry out? Do London sewers smell that bad?
I work my way swiftly through the rooms, opening windows despite the chill and damp outside. There’s still a little water in the toilet, but I flush it anyway. Then run the taps to fill the U-bends in the basin and shower. It doesn’t help.