Mark Duplock | Author

Grace

 

The two men parked their cars next to each other on the gravel driveway and shook hands.

“Can you believe this?” Detective Stone pulled a face as he turned to his colleague. “You’re not one of these types, are you?”

“Christ, no!” Detective Adams exclaimed. “It’s bullshit. Some crazy lady thinks she can pull a witness out of her ass by seeing a vision. Who the fuck is she kidding?” He spat. “But she’s managed to con the family into going for it, so…” He shook his head. “It should be a bloody crime.”

They walked up a short, overgrown garden path and knocked on the dark wooden door at the front of the small cottage.

The door opened after a moment, and Adams was slightly surprised to see a young, attractive woman standing there. She was in her mid 20’s, Adams guessed, slim and beautiful.

“Detective Adams, Miss,” he smiled as he held out his identification. “Is Mrs North available, please?”

The young woman smiled back at the detectives. “I’m Grace North, gentlemen,” her voice was pleasant. “Please come in.”

The living room was comfortable and well lit. Stone leaned forward in his armchair, reaching for a cup of coffee on the table in front of him. After a brief internal debate, he also helped himself to one of the biscuits set on the nearby plate.

“I’ll be honest with you,” Stone said, between sips of hot coffee. “We don’t think you’ll find anything.” He gestured towards Adams with the biscuit and took another sip of coffee.

Adams looked from Stone to the woman. “Our concern is that you’re giving the family false hope,” he explained. “They’ve had a rough time and -“

Grace raised her hand slightly and said, “I’m sorry to interrupt you, detective. The family came to me for help.” She looked at both men. “I don’t advertise, and I don’t take payment. The only way anyone knows to contact me is through personal referrals.” She smiled. “So I must be doing something right.”

Adams held his hands up in resignation. “I’m not here to argue with you, Mrs North. It’s just our reservations.” He shrugged. “What do you need from us?”

“Basic details of the person and the scene,” she said. “And you have photos?”

Stone placed an iPad on the table. “Right here,” he said.

“Great,” she took in a deep breath. “I’m ready to begin.”

* * *

She saw him scanning the cafe for a place to sit. The small coffee shop was usually busy, and today was no different. He spotted the spare seat and walked over to it, careful not to bump into any chairs spilling out from the surrounding tables.

“Excuse me,” he said, pointing to the empty chair. “Do you mind if I sit here?”

Grace looked up from her book and smiled warmly, “not at all.”

He placed his cup on the table and sat down opposite her. She had been reading a small paperback and was now sipping at her coffee.

“I’m sorry if I disturbed you,” he nodded at the book.

“It’s okay,” she said, placing the book on the table. “It’s difficult to read with all the noise in here anyway.” She quickly glanced around the crowded cafe before looking at him again. “I’m Grace,” she said.

“I’m Dan,” he said, absently playing with his coffee cup. “Nice to meet you, Grace.”

“Is it always so busy here?” she asked.

Dan shook his head. “No,” he said. “I come in here a lot, and I’ve never seen it like this. Word must have gotten out about the coffee here,” he laughed.

“It is pretty good,” agreed Grace, taking a long drink from her cup.

There was an awkward pause in the conservation, and Grace began to reach for her book.

“I don’t think I’ve seen you in here before?” Dan asked quickly.

Grace held up her hands in mock surrender. “You got me,” she said. “I just moved here last week. It’s the first time I’ve been able to get out and explore.” She paused, “I could use a guide if you’re not busy.”

* * *

They spent the rest of the day together, and she followed Dan’s directions as he walked with her around the city. As he talked about his work and hobbies, Grace started to feel a familiar sense of sadness. She had grown fond of the man that she knew would soon be dead.

She followed Dan along a path that ran around the side of a row of shops and stopped. She recognised the alleyway instantly from the photographs she had seen. She knew this was where it was going to happen.

Dan noticed she had stopped following him and turned around. “Everything okay?” he asked.

Grace nodded quickly and caught up with him. “Sorry,” she flashed him a nervous smile. “Just a bit of cramp.”

“Really?” said Dan in a concerned tone. “Do you want to rest here?”

Grace shook her head, but Dan pointed to some low railings at the side of the path. “Sit down here,” he said.

She sat down, and he stood beside her. She could sense that something was wrong, but she didn’t know why.

“You know a good massage gets rid of cramp,” Dan said. His voice had become a little flat, and Grace noticed him looking back down the path that had just been walking along.

A hand suddenly gripped her shoulder and began to massage it. Grace instinctively tensed and stood up.

“Hey,” said Dan holding up his hands. “You don’t like the massage?”

She cleared her throat and shook her head. “No, Dan, but thank you.” She tried to smile, but the feeling of unease had now become dread. She found it difficult to move.

Dan gripped her by the shoulder again, this time with both hands and pushed her firmly against the wall. He leaned in towards her face and, breathing heavily, whispered, “just stay quiet, okay?”

She felt his hands groping at the belt of her jeans, and she screamed. He slapped her hard in the face and her vision blurred as she fell to the ground.

He was on top of her now, and his face close again. “I said, stay fucking quiet!” He hissed.

She felt something under her, and she reached her hand under her back for it. It was cold and metallic.

The metal pipe swung up with surprising force and slammed it into the side of Dan’s head. He crumpled to the ground instantly, blood pooling around him.

Grace gingerly stood up and stared at the scene in horror. The blood was flowing freely from a large wound at the side of Dan’s head, and she heard him choking as he tried to vomit.

She looked at her hand, covered in blood and still holding the pipe.

“Oh my god,” she gasped.

* * *

Her eyes flickered open. She was in her living room, sitting in her comfortable chair. She didn’t move as the memories washed over her.

There was a slight cough from the other side of the room, and she looked towards the sound. Detective Adams was looking at her expectantly.

“Well, Mrs North?” he said in a mocking tone. “Who dun it?”

Grace looked at her hands. For a moment, there was blood, but just as quickly, it was gone.