Cleanskin by Val McDermid Read Free Book Online

Book: Cleanskin by Val McDermid Read Free Book Online
Authors: Val McDermid
    We both laughed. Then I said, ‘If you really feel like you’ve been missing out, we could take in a nice fresh corpse on the way back to yours.’
    Stella turned in her seat to look at me. ‘You know the way to a girl’s heart, don’t you?’
    I risked a quick glance at her. ‘I hope so. At least where you’re concerned. I missed you, Stella.’
    She nodded, as if she got it. ‘Nice of you to say so.’ She shifted in her seat and put her hand on my thigh. It didn’t feel sexual. It just felt like she wanted to be touching me. ‘Being apart’s useful, though. It made me wonder if it was time for us to rethink what’s going on between us.’
    This wasn’t how I’d planned it out in my head. I thought things would settle right back into the same groove as before. I’d had a month of sleeping on my own and I’d been looking forward to changing that. Time for a bit of sweet talking, I thought. ‘Seems like you had to go all the way to America before we noticed how much we care about each other,’ I said, patting her hand.
    ‘I wouldn’t put it quite like that,’ she said slowly. ‘I guess what I’m trying to say is that we need to make our minds up.’
    I didn’t much like the sound of this. ‘About what?’
    ‘About being together.’ She moved her handback into her lap. ‘Andy, I’m at a crossroads in my life. At the Body Farm, they made it clear that there was a job for me if I wanted it. Now, I love what I do here. But I know I would also love working there. I can’t choose between here and there based only on the job.’ She sighed. ‘I’d hoped I could work up to this in a more relaxed setting.’
    I knew just what she meant. This wasn’t the scene I’d imagined on my way to the airport. ‘What are you saying, Stella?’
    ‘It’s pretty simple, Andy. If I’m going to stay, there needs to be a strong reason why. You could be that reason. But if you’re going to be the reason, I need more from you than you were giving me before I went away. I want something more than a friendly fuck.’
    I pursed my lips and blew out the breath I’d been holding. It wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. ‘Stella, I don’t know how to …’
    ‘No. Not now,’ she said, her tone abrupt. ‘Think about it before you say anything. We don’t have to rush it.’ She sat up straight in her seat, making it clear the subject was closed for the time being. ‘Now, didn’t you say something about a body?’

    I WAS STILL REELING FROM Stella’s words as I parked beside the other police motors that marked the fringe of the crime scene. But within minutes, they felt totally trivial.
    The police tapes marked out an area by one of the giant pillars that held up the raised section of the Westway. It was a classic scrap of urban desert. Scrubby grass, rubbish all around, the stink of engine fumes and decay in the air. Stella grabbed her kitbag from the boot and we walked over to the cluster of white suits that marked the target of our interest.
    We were still a few yards away when one man peeled off from the main group and blocked our way. I had a vague memory of meeting him on some training course, but I couldn’t recall his name or rank. Luckily, I didn’t have to. ‘DCI Martin,’ he said, voice raised to be heard above the traffic noise. He extended a hand. I was a bit taken aback. Cops don’t usually do thehandshake thing. As we shook, he carried on. ‘John Burton, DI Burton. I’m really sorry about this.’
    I shrugged. ‘I get called out to stuff all the time. Sometimes it’s linked to my beat, sometimes not. Nothing to be sorry about.’
    Burton looked confused. ‘Did nobody brief you?’
    ‘All I got was a request to attend,’ I said. ‘Why? Is there something more?’
    Burton’s eyes were all over the place. He couldn’t settle on me or Stella or on anything else. ‘Christ,’ he said softly. He took my arm and tried to steer me off to one side.
    I shook free. ‘You can

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