0007464355 by Sam Baker Read Free Book Online

Book: 0007464355 by Sam Baker Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sam Baker
same harassed air and perplexed V between her eyebrows that he’d already told Lyn would set into wrinkles with age. In her nondescript jeans, trainers and parka, without a scrap of make-up, she could have been ten years younger than his daughter. The lines radiating from her eyes suggested she was older.
    ‘Or at all,’ she added, as if she hadn’t paused. ‘Plus I’m a crap driver. And I hate cars.’
    Gil started to smile, opened his mouth to tell her it really didn’t matter, no one was dead, but she was already gone, pushing past him into The Stores as if working to a deadline. With nothing better to do, Gil followed.
    ‘Back again so soon, Mr Markham?’ Mrs Millward said it as if someone had pressed F8 on a computer keyboard and this was the default line. Gil forced a smile and was wondering whether he could be bothered to answer when he saw that she wasn’t looking at him any more. Her mega-watt attention swivelling to the woman who’d entered ahead of him.
    If Margaret Millward had been a teacher she’d have been one of those who could silence a class just by looking up from her desk. She had that effect now. Even Jeremy Vine, blaring from the radio behind the till, seemed to ratchet his voice down a little in deference. ‘Mademoiselle Graham?’ There was a pause. A split second when every head in the shop – and there weren’t that many – turned to look at the newcomer, then a beat, perhaps two, before he saw the woman’s shoulders visibly tense through the thin fabric of her coat.
    ‘It is, isn’t it?’ Mrs Millward’s voice was triumphant. ‘It’s Mademoiselle Graham, the new tenant up at Wildfell. I knew we’d get to see you eventually.’

    That was Helen’s first thought.
    She almost looked behind her, then she realised there was no need, everyone in the shop was transfixed by just one person: her.
    As she opened her mouth and then closed it again, another thought occurred to her: How the hell did the woman know she was her?
    Not that anyone with half a brain couldn’t have worked it out by process of elimination, she supposed. Who she was, that is. But not what she looked like. How had this bossy little woman put two and two together and come up with Helen? In a village alive with passing traffic, which, for the past week, she had tried so hard not to be part of …
    Not one to be put off, the woman kept staring pointedly. Well? said her expression. Well?
    The small shop swam with faces. Helen felt the air constrict, her brain doing a go-slow while she tried to take them in. The blanking thing was an all too common occurrence these days. She couldn’t think straight. But it was obvious which of the faces staring at her, watching and waiting, mattered. The busybody behind the till. Helen could tell just by looking that she – Margaret Millward, it had to be, she of the village social – was the very worst kind. Not harmless, that’s for sure. Pathologically interested in other people’s business; now examining someone pathologically interested in not being examined.
    ‘ Oui , madame,’ she managed eventually.
    Just her luck there were other people in the shop. Two old women, properly old, purple-tinged hair and dowagers’ humps, both with wire baskets on flimsy wheel-along trollies. A young mum – young-ish, younger than Helen anyway – her old-school pram blocking one of three aisles. Then there was the man. The one she’d nearly run over outside. He was standing right behind her. Towering over her, not cowed by his own height, so she tried not to be. The fact he was lanky helped her not to tense. He was too close for comfort, but it wasn’t his fault. In an attempt to physically remove herself as far as possible from Margaret Millward’s orbit, she’d backed into his space. Close enough to see the pinstripe suit he wore was expensive, tailor-made. Close enough to see he wasn’t as old as she’d first imagined. And close enough, she realised, for him to see how

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