Extract: Lie Beside Me by Gytha Lodge
Louise wakes up. Her head aches, her mouth is dry, her memory is fuzzy. But she suspects she’s done something bad. She rolls over towards her husband, Niall. The man who, until recently, made her feel loved. But it’s not Niall who’s lying beside her. In fact, she’s never seen this man before. And he’s not breathing…
As Louise desperately struggles to piece her memories back together, it’s clear to Detective Jonah Sheens and his team that she is their prime suspect – though they soon find she’s not the only one with something to hide. Did she do it? And, if not, can they catch the real killer before they strike again?
Read on for an extract from Lie Beside Me by Gytha Lodge…
Lie Beside Me
I felt cold. Cold in the way of night sweats. In the way of a slow waking to damp sheets that stuck to my skin. It was like that time when I thought I had lymphoma but was, in fact, falling to pieces mentally instead. Do you remember that? I would wake up every night, drenched and shivering, having sweated so much that it had soaked half the mattress.
I fought waking up. I was too tired, and too aware of the hangover that was about to descend. I was hating myself before I’d even opened my eyes. Well, hating Drunk Louise, anyway. That irresponsible, crappy version of myself that always seems to screw everything up, just so she can have a good time.
So I was half awake and hating it. And I thought that maybe if I shuffled back on to your side of the bed, then I’d find a dry area, and possibly even the duvet, and I’d be able
to go back to sleep. But I couldn’t seem to find the duvet. So instead, I squirmed further back to tuck into your body. It’s always the warmest way to sleep, with you wrapped around me. But it didn’t make me warmer. What had been dampness became shivering wetness. Something was soaking into my nightshirt.
And I remember working out that it wasn’t, in fact, a nightshirt. There were thin, hard straps digging into my shoulders and the restrictive feeling of tight fabric. So, clothes. Drunk Louise had gone to sleep in her clothes. And that made me feel a little afraid of what else she might have done.
I opened my eyes a slit, and I turned over. I saw you as a shadow at first. A reassuring, humped silhouette. The window behind you was lit with the orange glow of the street lamp down the road. It wasn’t dawn yet.
That light confused me. I’ve never known you go to sleep with the curtains open. Not once in five years.
I remember I put a hand down to the mattress and then looked at it. I wasn’t quite sure whether I could see a darker mark on my palm, but it occurred to me quite suddenly that the wetness might be blood.
It didn’t shock me yet. Not even when I saw a . . . spread of it between us. It was a dark circle that stretched almost as far as the pillows and down to my knees.
And then I felt a creeping understanding. A realisation that there were none of the normal sounds of sleep coming from you. No breath. No familiar squeak high up in your nose. No gurgling stomach, which always seems to feature in the early hours.
I touched you on the shoulder. And for some stupid reason, I whispered at you instead of speaking properly. ‘Niall. Niall.’ Like it was possible to check you were OK without actually waking you up.
There were two things that hit me, and I don’t know which one came first. I can’t quite remember either one being clear before the other.
The first thing was that you were cold. Colder than the sheets. Colder than the feeling of my dress on my skin. A coldness that made your skin feel alien.
And the second thing was stranger. It was realising that you were strange. Your silhouette was too big. It was wider at the shoulder than you are. Perhaps thinner at the waist.
By the time I turned the light on and saw the bleached-white face of a stranger looking back at me, I already knew.
It wasn’t you. It wasn’t you.
The call reached Juliette Hanson at 6:46 a.m. It was an ice-cold first of March, early enough that there were still stars out beyond the gap in her badly fitted curtains, and cold enough for an overnight fall of snow to have frozen into bright, glittering crystals. It was also a Saturday, but Hanson was wide awake now. More awake than she’d been on any day this week.
Unidentified male found dead, the DCI had said. It was the most piercing of alarms. She was already swinging her feet out of bed as he went on to read the address.
She’d never heard of Saints Close, but the chief added that it was north-east of the city centre. A residential area. He would be out of the house within five minutes, he said, but she was likely to be on-scene before him.
She dragged a clean trouser suit out of the wardrobe, grabbed her toothbrush and toothpaste, and took them all downstairs with her. She snapped the kettle on and dressed quickly while it boiled. She threw instant granules into her thermos mug and dumped boiling water and milk on top, then went to grab her shoes. She’d left her socks upstairs, she realised. It wasn’t the weather to do without, and she ran up to grab the thickest pair she could find. She was fully dressed and standing at the front door by 6:53, her blonde hair pulled back into an untidy bun that would just have to do.
She paused with her hand on the bolt of the door. She needed a moment to prepare, mentally, for the few steps to her car. Climbing into the vehicle quickly meant having her
keys ready. Her bag looped over her shoulder just right. Her movements planned out.
She was pretty sure there would be nobody out there today. Who would want to hang around her house before dawn on a freezing morning? But she was going to make sure, anyway.
She’d developed a habit of pulling the door shut as she moved off the doorstep, letting the Yale lock click into place, and it was so practised that she didn’t even need to think about it today. She checked right and left as she approached the car, too, which she had reversed up as close to the porch as possible. There were no footsteps in the snow, she saw. No sign of anyone close by.
It took five paces to get to the driver’s door, and she had the car unlocked on pace number two. By pace number three she was pretty sure that she was alone, but she kept moving at speed anyway. She didn’t pause until she was inside the car with the doors locked and the engine running.
She spent a moment, after that, doing nothing more than breathing in and out. She hated that she felt like this. She hated, too, that it was almost worse when he wasn’t waiting in the shadows as when he was.
DCI Jonah Sheens was buzzing with curiosity as he pulled his Mondeo into Saints Close. He’d been sad to climb out of Jojo Magos’s warm bed and to miss their one lazy morning together. He also felt a little grubby in yesterday’s shirt and trousers. But overriding these considerations was keen interest. An unidentified man at a residential house. A death. All the questions that went with it.
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