No Safe Place(Detective Lottie Parker #4)

No Safe Place(Detective Lottie Parker #4)

Patricia Gibney

For Marie, Gerard and Cathy

With love


Tuesday 9 February 2016, 3.15 a.m.

Her bare feet stuck to the frost, but still she ran. She thought she was screaming, but there was no sound coming from her throat. Her elbow smashed into granite, the pain minimal in comparison to her fear.

Chancing a glance over her shoulder, she found it was as dark behind her as the blackness that stretched before her. She had unintentionally veered off the path and was now lost among the limestone and granite. Feeling cold stones cutting her soles, she tried to raise herself over the kerb she knew must surely be there, but stubbed her toe and fell head first into the next furrow.

With her mind void of all thoughts except reaching safety, she hauled herself onto her bleeding knees and listened. Silence. No twigs breaking or leaves being thrashed. Had he left her alone? Had he abandoned the chase? Now that she’d stopped running, she shivered violently in the freezing night. A light down the slope to her right caught her eye as she scanned the near horizon. An enclave of bungalows. She knew exactly where she was. And in the distance, she saw the amber hue of street lights. Safety.

A hurried look around. She had to make a run for it. Silently she counted to three, getting ready to make her final dash to safety.

‘Now or never,’ she whispered, and without a care for her nakedness, she stood up, ready to run like a panther. That was when she saw the breath suspended in the frost of the night.

She felt his arm encircling her throat, crushing her windpipe, and her body being dragged against his jacket. The sweet smell of fabric softener mixed with the sour scent of anger clouded her nostrils. With one last bout of adrenaline, she jabbed her elbow backwards, thrusting it deep and hard into his solar plexus. A gasp of wind escaped his mouth as he loosened his grip, and she was free.

She screamed and ran. Banging and crashing into granite, leaping over frozen stones and low kerbs, she tumbled, still screaming, down the slope towards the light. Almost there. She heard his booted footsteps gaining on her.

No, please God, no. She had to get off this path. Veering to her left, zigzagging, she was almost at the wall when the ground disappeared beneath her. Down she fell, six feet into the cavern, stones and clods of clay tumbling with her.

Excruciating pain shot up her leg, and an agonised scream exploded from her mouth. She knew that the sound she’d heard had not been the breaking of timber but the bone in her left leg shattering with the fall. Biting hard into her knuckles, she tried to be silent. Surely he couldn’t find her here, could he?

But as she looked up at the night sky with its twinkling stars heralding further frost, his face appeared at the edge of the hole. All semblance of hope disappeared as the first clatter of clay fell onto her upturned face.

And as she cried, big salty tears mingling with the dirt, she understood with terrible clarity that she was going to die in someone else’s grave.

Day One

Wednesday 10 February 2016


Lottie Parker woke to the sound of a child crying. She opened one eye and squinted at the digital clock: 5.30 a.m.

‘Oh no, Louis. It’s the middle of the night,’ she moaned.

Her grandson, at just over four and a half months old, had yet to sleep for longer than two hours straight. Throwing back the duvet, she went to the bedroom next to hers. The night light cast a shadowy hue over her sleeping twenty-year-old daughter. Katie had a pillow over her head, the duvet rising and falling in rhythm with her breathing. Louis stopped crying when Lottie lifted him from his cot. She fetched a nappy and a bottle of formula from the bedside cabinet and left her daughter to her dreams.

Back in her own room, she changed Louis, nestled him into her arms and fed him. She felt the baby’s heart beating against her breast. There was something so soothing and at the same time so grounding about it. Adam would have loved him. Her heart constricted when she thought of her husband, dead over four years now. Cancer. The void left after his passing refused to be filled.

She feathered her grandson’s soft dark hair with a kiss, and as the baby twisted, pushing the bottle out of his mouth, Lottie winced with the pain in her upper back. She knew she couldn’t afford to be off work. Even though things in Ragmullin were unbearably quiet at the moment, it wouldn’t stay that way for long.

She winded her little grandson and he smiled up at her. She smiled back.

A good omen for the day ahead.

She hoped.


Mollie Hunter settled into her seat. She placed her laptop bag on the table, then rolled up her cotton scarf, scrunched it against the window and rested her head. Her eyelids slid closed, blocking out the impending breakthrough of dawn. Earbuds pumped soft music into her ears, muting the shuffling of her fellow commuters. As the train shunted out of Ragmullin station, she fell back into the sleep she’d risen from just thirty minutes earlier.

Her dreams resurfaced with the rhythm of the wheels, and unconsciously, she smiled.

‘What’s so funny?’

Mollie heard the question through the haze of sleep, and opened one eye. She hadn’t noticed anyone sit down opposite her. But he was there. Again. The second morning in a row he had ignored other empty seats and occupied that one. Straight across from her. Slowly she closed her eyes again, determined to ignore him. Not that he was bad-looking. He appeared to be fairly ordinary, though his mouth wore a smug grin. He was maybe a little older than her twenty-five years. A mental image flared behind her closed eyes and she found herself awakening fully and staring at him.

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