The Sleepwalker by Joseph Knox Read Online (FREE)
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The Sleepwalker is a Detective Aidan Waits novel.
‘The craving to risk death is our last great perversion. We come from night, we go into night. Why live in night?’ – John Fowles, The Magus
Tessa was ready and packed with a few minutes to spare, standing in the open doorway enjoying a gentle evening breeze. It wasn’t quite dark, and the vivid powder-blue twilight felt like something she hadn’t had time to stop and contemplate in years. It struck her as a premonition, a promise of all the good things still out there on the horizon, and her hand went unconsciously to her stomach.
The street was quiet and Tessa could hear the little girl next door rehearsing at her piano, playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. She’d improved so much in the last few months, her rendition transforming from the halting scales of an amateur into something elemental, flowing out of her like water. A set of headlights turned the corner, strafing the houses on the other side of the road, and a matt-black Mercedes pulled up at the end of Tessa’s drive, precisely on time. The driver was dressed in a smart, dark suit and when he came up the path she saw he was wearing tinted glasses.
‘Miss Klein?’ he said.
‘Call me Tess.’
He asked if he could take her suitcase and she caught her reflection in his lenses. The amused smile in her eyes that said she didn’t do this often. She followed him to the car, where he held open a door for her and loaded her case into the back, before taking up his position in the driver’s seat.
‘Where to?’ he said, clearly in on the joke.
‘Oh, surprise me,’ she answered, feeling the smile split her face in half.
The driver gave her a nod in the rear-view and pulled out into the road. Tessa looked through the window, at the houses, the lit windows and lives she was leaving behind. She felt her eyes growing heavy, sinking shut, and when she opened them again it was full dark outside. The driver turned into a narrow country lane, crunching gravel beneath the tyres, approaching a small cottage with no lights on. He pulled up and touched the ignition.
‘Surprise,’ he said.
It was so quiet that Tessa could hear herself breathing. The driver climbed out and went to the car boot, taking her suitcase, and returning to open the door.
He clicked on a Maglite and led them towards the cottage.
‘We’re looking for a cactus,’ he said, examining the pots lined up against the wall. Tessa bent to the plant and found the spare key hidden beneath it. The door opened with a sigh, as though the building had been holding its breath, and she felt along the wall for light switches, pressing all of them at once. The bulbs were energy efficient, her preference, and she smiled to think that he’d probably had them changed especially for her. They gave off a soft glow that didn’t quite reach the corners of the room, making it seem even more cavernous than it was. The space was large, open-plan, including both kitchen and lounge, with enormous wooden beams lining the ceiling. Tessa forgot the driver for a second, and when he discreetly cleared his throat she twisted round to him.