Convicted killer Ian Clemence, a stalker who photographs young women, is the main suspect. He’s fresh out of prison and the police are eager to put him back. Everyone believes Clemence is guilty, so why does Clara think he’s innocent? And will she be willing to put her life on the line to prove it?
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By Margaret Murphy
Copyright © 2006
All right reserved.
The tail end of August, and hotter than hell. Clemence wound
down the window, glancing around to check for nosy neighbours
as he did so: with the window open, he was conspicuous. The
mingled scents of overblown privet and new-mown grass buffeted
his face like a solid mass. He noted with alarm that the sun
had crept round, slicing sharply across one edge of his
camera, resting on the passenger seat. He snatched it up. It
was warm. Shit! For a moment he held it to the cooler air at
the window, but shifted it when he got a curious look from a
kid walking past.
He watched until she became a blurred tadpole shape in the
distance. A combination of heat haze and the residual effects
of twelve years staring at nothing further than thirty feet
away. A slight deficit in visual perception, the doctor said.
It would right itself, with time. The girl turned the corner
and he settled back. The 28-200mm lens he had chosen for its
versatility was a comforting weight in his lap.
He armed the sweat from his forehead and a spiky trickle
crabbed its way from his chest to the waistband of his chinos.
If she didn't come soon, he would have to move the car
He squinted up into the shimmering mosaic of the sycamore
canopy above him; the leaves had a hard, brittlequality, not
yet tinged with autumn colour, yet well past the soft greens
of spring. He would have to wait another year to see that on
A couple of streets away, an ice-cream van clanged
'Greensleeves' at a mad pace, speeding to its favoured pitch,
and for a moment the stink of privet was displaced by a
childhood memory: running into the street after tea, the
pavement a hot, searing white, coins slippery in his
seven-year-old palm. Reaching the juddering, custard-yellow
van and breathing in the heady combination of raspberry syrup
and diesel fumes.
The years inside seemed grey by comparison - leached of colour
by their sameness and deadened by fear and rage. Those years,
when the predominant smells of boiled cabbage and stale shit
seemed almost interchangeable, had made him greedy for sensory
stimulation of a more wholesome kind. He closed his eyes and
breathed deeply, purging himself of the prison smells,
relishing the prickling sensation of the privet's scent on his
palate and at the back of his throat.
A car pulled up almost opposite and Clemence slumped lower in
his seat, cupping his hand protectively over the zoom lens in
his lap, then, cautiously lifting the camera to waist height,
he turned his head slowly, his heart thumping painfully in his
chest. It was her.
He experienced a curious mixture of excitement and anxiety:
this woman represented a goal - perhaps even an ambition. It
had taken some time to build to this moment. He had sought her
out, and now he was determined that he would get what he came
She got out of her car and walked towards the house with the
faded red door, broken fence and overgrown privet hedge. He
had imagined her somewhere grander - more picturesque - with
neatly pruned shrubs, and borders planted with meticulous
reference to the colour wheel: no clashing oranges and purples
for her, but tasteful drifts of graded tints, and a carefully
considered marrying of texture and form.
She reached the front door and he zapped off a few shots as
she turned into the sunlight to rummage for her keys in her
handbag. He liked catching women unawares: it was at such
moments that they often exhibited an unselfconscious grace.
She went through the door and he waited. No point in startling
her. Give her a few minutes to kick off her shoes, hang up her
jacket, maybe put the kettle on. She might even offer him a
cuppa. The anxiety had been replaced by a growing sense of
dread. Group therapy sessions during his final three years
inside had taught him to recognise the often confusing
emotions he felt. They had also practised anger management:
identify the signs and deactivate the rage or, if it got past
control, walk away. Not always an option on the inside, but
being on the outside made things easier on that score - it was
so big for one thing; there were so many places you could go.
And managing the anger had unexpected advantages: putting
distance between what you might call the incitement, and the
retribution made detection more difficult.
He checked his watch. He'd given her long enough. He rolled up
the window and reached for the door handle. A moment of doubt
like a spasm of pain. What if she wouldn't speak to him? He
forced himself to take a few breaths. She would - he would
talk, and she would listen. He would persuade her.
He got out of the car and crossed the street.
Excerpted from Weaving Shadows
by Margaret Murphy
Copyright © 2006 by Margaret Murphy.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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