The Runaway

The Runaway by Lesley Thomson Read Free Book Online

Book: The Runaway by Lesley Thomson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lesley Thomson
carried her pink suitcase up stone steps into a cold tiled hallway that was like the subway tunnel. It smelled of stale roast dinners.
    That Wednesday in November 1973 was special. The royal wedding went off without a hitch. The couple waved to crowds from the balcony of Buckingham Palace and later left for a honeymoon on the Britannia , the Queen’s yacht. Their marriage was destined to be no more successful than Terry and Suzanne Darnell’s: it would end less than two decades later after confirmation that Mark Phillips had fathered a child with another woman.
    For Stella it was not a day to remember; everything that happened then and that had happened before it became a blank. Stella remembered nothing of the life she had led in the house in Hammersmith before her parents separated. She forgot that she had wanted to be a detective or that she had once owned a dog. Hector died of a brain tumour when she was nine. She forgot the expeditions with her dad, when they had hunted for clues by the river in Richmond Park or in Dukes Meadows. Her Access Weekends were few and on her visits she knew to be on her best behaviour and dutifully played with the toys he had bought for her, keeping faith with her strategy that it was up to her to make her mum and dad be nice to each other.
    Stella Darnell and Isabel Ramsay would one day meet again. By that time Isabel was an old woman with secrets that no detective would root out and Stella, now several years past forty, was running a cleaning company. They didn’t recognize each other when Stella came to do an estimate for deep cleaning; nor did either of them remember the other’s name. Stella thought it familiar, but she met so many people in the course of her job. She was more likely to remember what they asked to have done, not what they were called.
    But perhaps on that sunny morning in November thirty-eight years ago they had established a tenuous rapport. Isabel Ramsay would in the end put up with no other cleaner but Stella in her house and Stella, rather than be put off by the older woman’s obduracy and insistence on stringent cleaning that went deeper than deep, came to consider Mrs Ramsay her favourite client. For her she made many exceptions.
    Mrs Ramsay and Terry Darnell had been dead some years when one morning, while Stella was cleaning the stair carpet in what she sometimes still thought of as Terry’s house, her memory was jolted. She sat down heavily on the top step. The vacuum beside her on the landing and the motor still whining, she gazed down to the hall below. Light spilled through the frosted-glass panes in the front door. Her anorak hung on one of the hooks by the door. Hector’s dog lead was long gone from the end peg. The pink suitcase was not by the door. She felt a tingling on her cheek, a gentle feeling like the brush of the back of a hand. She rubbed her cheek, and becoming aware of the noise of the vacuum, she switched it off.
    Sitting on the top stair, Stella relived every moment of that special Wednesday. From the moment when, bewildered, she had watched her dad stuff her Noddy duvet into a box with the rest of her bedding, to the evening after the sun had set and it was dark when, disorientated, she had found the duvet spread out on her new bed in the flat in Barons Court.
    In the thin light in the hall Stella saw the ghosts of the living, as well as of the dead. A little girl with a suitcase. A man with a dog. A tall lady on the doorstep blowing smoke rings up to the sky.
    â€˜I wish you were coming with us, Daddy.’
    â€˜So do I, Stell.’
    Jumping up, Stella switched on the vacuum. Grabbing the brush, she set to work cleaning the already clean landing.
    We hope you enjoyed this book.
    The latest thrilling book in the Detective’s Daughter series is out now!
    For a preview, read on or click the image

    Or for more information, click one of the links below:
    Stella’s School Reports
    About Lesley

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