When Jon McElvoy, a Liberal Democrat MP, is found dead in his North Norfolk home, DI Jack Sallt and his colleagues quickly decide that this is a murder made to look like a suicide. However, when the Intelligence Services arrive, all of their findings are thrown into the air.
As Jack tries to uncover and expose the truth, he finds that his personal demons not only come back to torment and tempt him, but they also threaten to end his career.
Helen called several times. She just wanted to talk, but his mobile was switched off. She called the landline and got the answer-phone. Perhaps he was out getting the morning groceries. She decided to drive round to the house; it was only four miles away and she didn’t like leaving messages on phones anyway. At least this way she could drop off any useful extra documents, letters or provisions without having to pop over later, after Jim had finally returned from birding. Was she making an excuse to see Jon? She told herself not to be ridiculous; after all, there were party matters to discuss.
It was just after nine when she arrived at the flint-covered terraced house; the May sun was threatening to break through the cloud which had amassed along the coast. She managed to park, squeezed behind his little yellow Cinquecento. If Jon had gone out, he hadn’t taken his car. As she got out of her car, she noticed a distinct chill in the air; the breeze off the North coast seemed to have stiffened somewhat. She opened the iron-gate, making a mental note to ask the gardener if he could come more regularly from now on. They didn’t want a repeat of last year. Grass was beginning to intrude upon the slate pathway and dandelions were having a riot on the lawn. But the roses would soon be out, as would the lavender. She smiled as she sauntered the few yards to the orange-yellow door, thinking back to last summer when every Saturday they had sat on the doorstep together after the surgery, clutching their mugs of tea, the heavenly aromas of lavender and rosemary filling the air around them while they talked about politics or her children.
“That’s strange,” she whispered, coming to an abrupt halt. The door was slightly ajar. Jon usually had the door locked at all times and it wasn’t very warm, certainly not warm enough to leave the door open. She pushed it open, brushing back the strands of auburn hair that had blown across her face.
“Jon? Only me.”
She stepped inside, kicking off her heels as she did so, and closed the door behind her, turning the key firmly. She sniffed the air. Alcohol! Jon didn’t normally drink. Even after six years in Westminster village with all its shenanigans and late nights, he only rarely drank. Or so he said.
“Jon? Are you there?”
She walked through into the small kitchen. There was an empty bottle of vodka on the scrubbed oak table. That was Polish writing on the label, she was sure of that. A foreign chocolate wrapper was beside it. She had sudden visions of him sleeping it off upstairs. He hadn’t said that he’d had a bad week when they spoke briefly on the phone yesterday. But it wasn’t vodka she could smell. Vodka didn’t smell, that much she knew. It was more like… whisky? In the silence, she felt her stomach churn. Dropping her briefcase on the stone floor, she walked through the hallway and stopped at the lounge. The door was closed. Her hand paused above the handle. There was no choice, she had to go in. “Quickly,” she said to herself. “Get it over with and it will be alright.” She turned the handle and walked in. It wasn’t alright.
She dashed across to where he lay on the grubby sofa. He was lying on his stomach, his face turned towards the door. His half-open eyes looked at her blankly and there was a graze and a bruise on his cheek. She knelt down, touching his limp hand while wiping away tears with her sleeve. His hand was cold. She saw the half empty bottle of whisky on the coffee table. She saw the bottle of pills. Sleeping pills? She stood and had a closer look at the bottle. Somehow she still had the wherewithal to know not to touch anything. Yes, they were sleeping pills. A pen and a blank sheet of paper lay on the floor, close to where his right foot touched the carpet.
Helen sat down, trembling, on the chair opposite him and took her phone from her handbag. Breathe, girl! Breathe! She took several deep breaths as she struggled to keep control. “Do the right thing”, she said out loud. Nine. Nine. Nine. They answered immediately.