Twenty grand has vanished from Shaun Halloran’s casino, and so has gorgeous blonde croupier Kat White. Once he’s tracked her down, he’ll shoot first and ask questions later.
Amy Satterthwaite’s just learned Kat stole her ID for a sham marriage. Desperate to clear her name and save her friend from Shaun, she swallows her pride and turns to arrogant Ross Pritchard for help. But can they find Kat in time?
Twists and tension keep the pages turning in A.A. Abbott’s stunning crime thriller. As Kat’s trail leads from London’s smart Fitzrovia to secret tunnels below central Birmingham, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
“What do you want?” she asked.
“Where’s Kat? I need to see her.”
“I don’t know.”
He took the knife from his pocket.
“No,” Amy said, “I really don’t know. If I did, I’d tell you. She’s been gone for three days and I can’t reach her. I’ve tried, believe me.” This was no time for heroics. Had she the slightest idea of Kat’s whereabouts, she would have divulged them, of that she was sure.
His eyes darted down to the knife. He flicked it open, stroked its blade, then looked up at her again. “I need answers, Amy,” he said, almost sorrowfully. “If someone had stolen twenty grand from you, you’d want some answers too.”
“Kat stole twenty thousand pounds?” A week ago she wouldn’t have believed it. Now, she couldn’t be sure. “That’s not all she’s done. She married an illegal immigrant, using my name. The police were round this morning.”
“Do they know where she is?”
Amy sighed. “No.”
“Good. I want to see her before the police do. I don’t suppose they’ve searched this flat for clues to her whereabouts?”
She was silent.
“No,” he said. “I thought not. You and me, Amy, we’re going to do that now, before any such clues might do a vanishing act like our mutual friend. Show me Kat’s room.”
“You’re in it.”
He looked around, shook his head. “Really? I thought this was the lounge. Okay, I want you to take everything out of those boxes.” He pointed to a stack of wooden wine crates, painted white, in which Kat’s belongings were stowed.
The top crate was crammed with shopping bags, over a dozen of them, bearing the names of designer boutiques: Prada, Marc Jacobs, Miu Miu and more. Reluctantly, Amy picked up a bag.
“Open it,” the knifeman said.
It was from Agent Provocateur, a powder pink paper bag sealed with a black ribbon. Carefully, Amy untied the bow. Inside, there was a pink cardboard box.
“Now that,” he ordered.
“Must I?” Amy pleaded. “These are Kat’s personal things.”
“That’s the whole point.”
Silently, she opened the box, unfolded the black tissue paper inside and shook out a frilly silk underwear set. A receipt showed it had cost two hundred pounds.
He whistled, leering. “Very nice. Now the rest.”
Altogether, Kat had spent over four thousand pounds on unworn purchases. “A shopping addiction,” he said thoughtfully, reflecting Amy’s surprised reaction. “Carry on.”
The crates below mostly contained clothes, neatly folded, and shoes in bags. There were a few books, overspill from the shelves by the wall, and finally, a box file containing paperwork.
“Give me that,” the dangerous stranger commanded. He fished out a letter. “Dearest Kat,” he read aloud, “I hope you are well. I am fine, and so is Cedric the Cat, but he is very old now. I have a little job now at Treasures in Harborne. Same old, same old. Do write and tell me your news. With love, Auntie Lizzie.” He paused. “Isn’t that sweet?” he said sarcastically. “Let’s see if there’s more of the same.”
He rifled through the box, shaking his head. Evidently, nothing further was deemed worthy of comment. He asked her to empty the only other article of storage in the room, a large rosewood chest, but that merely yielded towels and bedding.
“Interesting, and predictable,” he muttered. “I’ll tell you what we haven’t found. No suitcase, money, passport, women’s things like cosmetics. No certificates for qualifications, birth, marriage even.” He looked pointedly at Amy. “She’s done a runner.”
Amy bit her tongue. He was unlikely to appreciate being told he was stating the obvious.
He pocketed the letter. “I’ll be back. And you’ll tell me where she is, okay?” He fingered the knife again. “Not a word to the Old Bill. I’ve never been here, not on your life.”
“What about the CCTV?” she couldn’t resist challenging him.
“What about it?” he said dismissively. “None in that car park. I cut the wires.” He stood to leave, putting a finger to his lips. “You’re a lucky, lucky girl, Amy, because I believe you. Thousands wouldn’t. Now don’t forget – not a dicky bird, okay?”
When he’d gone, Amy bolted the door and searched the kitchenette for alcohol. Finding a bottle of Snow Mountain vodka, less than a quarter full, she drank all that was left of it and went straight to bed.
Please note there is also a taster story, The Gap, at http://aaabbott.co.uk/free-stuff/
About AA Abbott
AA Abbott (also known as Helen) chose her pen name in a shameless attempt to slot into the first space on your bookshelf. Born near London, she’s lived in Birmingham and Bristol, and worked in all three cities. She works for big companies for half the year as a tax accountant, taking temporary work so she can spend the rest of the year writing fast-paced crime thrillers. Although her work gives her inspiration, she says none of her colleagues have murdered, blackmailed or defrauded anyone. Hanging out in coffee shops and cocktail bars, she loves city life and can’t resist writing about it.