Chapter Thirty-One

The following morning, a police car pulled up outside Paul’s house. Everyone saw it, including Amy. She went over to the house, frantic with worry and desperate for news. Paul emerged a few minutes later, a few days of stubble on his face and he looked at Amy sheepishly as the officers put him in the car. The car drove away and Marian came and put her arm around the young girls shoulder. She suggested they go back inside for a cup of tea.

 

Bethan asked Amanda if they were taking the bad man away for killing her daddy as Amanda started the car. “I don’t know, sweetheart, lets get to swimming though.” She had wondered the same thing. Had Paul been responsible for what had happened to David. She drove away, not far behind the police car.

 

Greg and Katherine had just planned their day, they were going to drive to somewhere nice for walking and find a spot for lunch. Greg saw the car out of the bathroom window and called to Katherine. She could see Amy too and felt bad for her. She had looked shocked to see him being led away and it was more than just neighbourly concern. Katherine didn’t know Amy that well, she had deliberately kept her distance from the young mum as her own hopes of motherhood seemed to be slipping further and further away and unlike Greg, who relished spending time with kids, she found it hard. Still she knew that finding out someone you trusted was not all that they seemed was one of the hardest things to deal with and she could see it in Amy’s reaction to Paul being led away. She hoped it was nothing serious but everything pointed to him being mixed up in that explosion.

 

At the station, Viv was preparing to charge Paul, they had pulled in a 17 year old who had put together the petrol bomb and persuaded his younger brother to throw it inside the back window of the empty house. The fire would never have been enough on it’s own to lead to a death and given his age it seemed the manslaughter charge would be lenient. Paul also was likely to only receive a light sentence and a good lawyer would probably get him off. The evidence was fairly circumstantial but Viv was confident that he had been responsible. When he had shown Andy around the property, the evidence suggested the gas had been switched on. Maybe on a hob. The leak had filled the house so that when the teenagers had thrown the petrol bomb it had caused a deadly explosion. The footballer had been questioned at his home to establish a timeline but wasn’t a suspect. Paul would have to wait for his bail hearing before he could go home. It would be most likely be set low given the circumstances. He had asked for a solicitor and decided to use his phone call to ring Amy. He owed her an explanation. While he made the call, two police officers went to deliver the news to Amanda.

 

Marian stayed with Amy for most of the morning until just after she got off the phone with Paul. Amy told her everything and thanked her for her support. When Marian arrived home, Ernest asked where she had been. She explained that she had been comforting Amy, filling him in on what she knew. Which wasn’t much but she had been where she was needed. Ernest nodded, he should have guessed it would be something like that. It was what he loved about his wife, she was always where she needed to be. He had spent the morning watching some racing on the television anyway but now that she was home, he was looking forward to spending some time with her. He offered to make them a sandwich and a cup of tea which she gladly accepted.

 

Talk of the two police cars on the avenue filled the drive for Oliver and Angela, neither of them touching on what had happened the previous night. It was useful to have a conversation topic, Oliver didn’t regret the night before but he had very much seen it as closure and he wasn’t sure that she would. It had probably been wrong, she had been angling for it since she had arrived, since they broke up. He was looking forward to seeing his mother again and focused on that as he drove. It felt less odd spending so long in a small space with her after the time they had spent together in the past few weeks but it was still a little awkward. He had no intention of moving back home or trying to get things back to how they were. He was still happy with moving on and he knew that his aunt would have approved of that decision. He knew this wasn’t the time to tell her though and tried to make the most of spending time with her.

 

Harriet was trying to get through the day, she didn’t know where Mark was or what he was playing at. They had had a minor row over a holiday. How had it blown up to the point where he had spent a whole night away. Was he genuinely planning on leaving her? She tried calling his phone again, Grace had started asking where he was and said that she wanted to play. He arrived back as she finished leaving a message. He didn’t speak to her, walking straight upstairs to Grace’s bedroom. Viv had text him to say she wouldn’t be home until much later as she was going to be caught up at work and there was no point waiting around all day for her on his own. He found his daughter who was very excited to see him and he joined in her game. When Harriet came to join them, he asked Grace if she wanted to go out. She said yes and he helped her get ready. When Harriet insisted that they need to talk, he responded simply saying that they would talk later. She decided not to give him the satisfaction of leaving her and began packing his bags.

 

Martin returned home in the mid afternoon with Luke. He wasn’t being charged but had received a warn. He asked if he could go to bed and both parents nodded. Joanna put the kettle on.

“I’m going to move. The estate agent is coming round to put a sign up later and discuss some of the details.”

He nodded.

“I wanted to talk to you about Luke, he said some things to me that made me think I should really be around more. To be honest Jo, I hadn’t realised how much this was effecting you.”

“We’re okay.”

“Jo, you’re nothing like the woman you were four years ago. I’m sorry, I know I’m partly responsible for that at the very least.”

Joanna felt pretty defensive but she also had to admit feeling a touch of relief at the idea that he might help. She conceded that it was time to ask Luke where he wanted to be. When he woke up, the three of them would have the first discussion as a family that they had ever had.

 

Donald answered the phone, it had been a long day, Mavis had barely stopped speculating over what the police officers might be saying to Amanda and Paul. It was tiring listen to her gossip even though he was used to it by now. The house was usually quiet on Saturday but Lynn had called mid-afternoon to ask if they could come round as they had some news. Mavis had busied herself making sandwiches and just finished when Lynn and the family arrived. Steven led the conversation after the small talk was out of the way. He said they were planning on moving into the area, be a little bit closer still. They had seen the for sale sign outside Joanna’s house as they arrived and that was certainly an option. Lynn broke the second piece of news. They needed a bigger place because their family was going to grow one more time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty

After Archie was asleep, Amy got into bed, calling Paul’s phone again, she was now starting to get really worried. He hadn’t replied to her texts or sent her a message since he had left suddenly the other night. She had even been over to his house a couple of times to see him only to find that he hadn’t been home. It made no sense, everything had been going really well and even before they had started this, he had been in regular contact. Something had to be going on. She was debating whether or not to call the police. She didn’t want to be stupid over it. Maybe he was just fed up with things or felt like they were going too fast and wanted to slow down. It was odd though and she decided that she would call them tomorrow, if he still hadn’t answered her and wasn’t at home. It would be the weekend and he should be home for some of it so she would have a better idea of whether this was something to worry about as much as she was. She sent him a text which just read, Archie misses you and went to bed.

 

Mark and Harriet were discussing the family holiday for the year. It had started as a civil discussion but was fast becoming a row. Holly and Joseph would be coming and had their heart set on a theme park. Harriet felt that Grace was too young to benefit from one and that it wouldn’t be interesting enough for them (her.) Mark was losing his patience and decided to try and appease her with the idea that the three of them could take another holiday to a more interesting place but that the money was there for a big family holiday and it would be nice to take the opportunity. As they talked they were both looking online at holiday options. She wanted a trip to Europe, Italy perhaps. He was looking at the theme parks in Orlando and offered her the information.

“You and Grace could go shopping instead? There’s a spa too, so you could have a bit of pampering.”

“How will that be a family holiday? That is two vacations where we won’t spend any time together.”

He closed the laptop lid. Stood up and said,

“Well maybe you shouldn’t come at all then.” Before walking out of the room. He had more than had his fill of her now. He was only staying for Grace and he had made things work with Holly and Joseph so maybe he could with her too. She didn’t follow him and he got his car keys and drove over to Viv’s.

 

As it was Angela’s last night, she had cooked Oliver’s favourite meal. Lasagna, she had set the table with salad, wine and candles. He arrived home with a bag of chinese take away. She called through for him to come into the kitchen as she heard the door close. He was still holding the bag and she laughed as he said

“I thought we could have a treat since it’s your last night.” He hadn’t noticed the smell of garlic and tomato immediately but he did now and as she laughed, he started laughing too.

“Well, we’re not going to be hungry are we?” Angela shook her head. He went over to her, putting the bag on the counter and kissed her.

He hadn’t planned on it, he didn’t necessarily want it to mean anything, but he still loved her and seeing her laugh, both of them enjoying something which felt like old times, she had been impossible to resist. They had sex on the kitchen floor, something they hadn’t done since they had first been married and christening their house. Afterwards they had moved to the living room and sat on the floor, backs against the sofa, under a blanket and ate some of the food. She had rested her head on his shoulder and said she had missed him and he had said it back.

 

Viv’s pager went off as she and Mark dosed. She got out of bed and told Mark he could stay if he wanted to but to lock up if he decided to go home. Her head was fully focused on the job from the minute the pager went off. He tried to ask if she wanted him to stay and she chose not to answer him. It was his choice. They were having fun and she was pretty sure he would leave Harriet soon whether she told him to stay or not. There were more important things to worry about. She arrived at the police station, where she was quickly briefed on the latest development in the investigation. She went to the interview room and spoke to the tape, taking a seat next to her colleague.

 

Martin had arrived three hours later than planned but as soon as he had, he had taken Luke straight to the police station. Joanna was sat at home, clock watching, worrying about whether Luke would come home or not. She hadn’t been able to face going to the station and Martin was much better placed to deal with it but with nothing to do but wait she found herself in bits. She changed the channel 100 times and paced around, filling the time with nothing at all, waiting for someone to call her.

 

 

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Katherine and Greg had both had too much on at work to go to the funeral and they hadn’t wanted to intrude while the family spent time at home preparing for the funeral, so they had sent a cheque to the charity that Amanda had nominated. The night before though, Katherine had felt like it wasn’t enough and had stopped off at a supermarket on the way home to buy a sympathy card which she went to post through their letterbox first thing in the morning.

 

Marian straightened Ernest’s tie, going to funerals was fast becoming second nature to her but it had been a while since it had been for someone so young. As she stood back to admire her husband, her heart broke just a little for Amanda.

“What time are we picking up Mavis?” He asked her.

“Not long, about ten minutes,” confirmed Marian.

He nodded and turned to face his reflection in the mirror. Marian straightened out her dress and checked her handbag.

“She didn’t want flowers, did she?”

“No, do you have some cash for a donation?”

Ernest opened his wallet to check and he nodded before putting his hand on Marian’s shoulder. She brushed against it and they stayed that way for a few moments, the air was tinged with sadness and they knew it would remain that way for most of the day.

 

Mavis really hated funerals, she had been truthful about Donald’s inability to go but she had hoped it would excuse her from proceedings. Unfortunately it had been hard to say no when Marian offered her the lift. She only had one black dress but it would do. She had waited until the children were at school before changing into it. It had felt like she was getting dressed all over again just hours after the first time. She was ready now and sat down, with her coat and the television on, to wait. Deep down, she was desperate for Ernest to forget about the lift so that she wouldn’t have to go. Sadly for Mavis, the home makeover she was watching had only just begun when she heard the pip of his horn and she went to join them in the car. Marian greeted her in an overly sunny way considering the reason for their journey and inside, Mavis groaned. Outwardly though she remained polite, just less like herself, as she remained quiet for most of the journey.

 

Amanda hadn’t been able to bear the thought of her children wearing black clothes she had said so to her mother the night before. The items had been bought but the labels were still on, Janet offered to return them to the shop, saying that it was David’s funeral and no-one would think any differently of her or them if they didn’t wear black. She had suggested that she ask the children what they wanted to wear. Bethan had picked her navy dress, she had worn it to her last birthday party, which her daddy had very much been a part of, Amanda had been at work for most of it. She looked beautiful in it and Amanda knew David would have been saying so and telling her she looked like a princess. The word stuck in her throat slightly as she squeezed Bethan and tried to tell her the same. Ben was wearing his football outfit. A strip from their team including the shorts and some trainers. It was a little outrageous but Amanda knew David would have loved it. She offered him a jumper, churches were always cold and the poor boy would be shivering. He had a retort for it though, saying it was always cold on the pitch. She took it just in case.

 

Janet came to tell her the car was here and ask if she was ready. Amanda wasn’t. She hadn’t been ready for any of this. As the children filed out to the car she just stood in the empty bedroom and Janet went to her. She held her and tried to comfort her daughter. Today wasn’t going to be easy but she would be with her the whole time. When she had collected herself a little more, Amanda walked down to the car, the driver had opened the front door for her but she wanted to sit in the back with her children so she got in. The driver shut the door and Janet and her husband followed behind.

 

Oliver had gone home for lunch to spend some more time with Angela before he took her home the next day. Seeing the funeral cortege drive past as he drove home he slowed down and waited for them to be around the corner before continuing his journey. He was not looking forward to his aunt’s funeral in a weeks time. There would be no cortege of black cars and a hearse for that particular funeral but it was always hard to say goodbye to anyone. He hadn’t got a chance to meet David but he had seen that he spent a lot of time with his kids at the weekend and he liked to think he would be like that when he was a father.

 

The church wasn’t very far at all but the journey seemed to take a long time. As they drove, Amanda tried to explain to her children what would happen when they arrived. She didn’t really know herself, she just wanted to try and give them some idea. They had promised their grandma they would behave though, Bethan assured Amanda that she didn’t need to worry. It almost made her chuckle. David’s whole department and a great many others from the council office had come to the funeral and she saw them all as she arrived. His boss came over to her shortly after she had stepped out of the car and offered his assistance if there was anything he could do.

“David was a good bloke and one of the hardest workers on the team too. Anything I can do for you at all, just give me a call.”

He was followed by a number of other well wishers that she had never met but that David had known. Everything seemed to be passing in a strange blur, she was there but it was almost like she was watching what was happening from above. The doors to the church opened and everyone headed inside and took their seats. After the opening prayers and greeting, they sang David’s favourite hymn. Yhe words were meant to bring solace and strength but Amanda couldn’t sing them and just stood holding her children’s hands. One of David’s oldest friends stood up to give a eulogy, Amanda had prepared hers for the vicar to read out and he was also going to read out two letters from Ben and Bethan to their dad. It had been the right decision she could never have stood up in front of all these people and spoken about David. Her heart was broken and she would have broken down.

 

The committal was hard, burial had been her preference to give the children and her, somewhere to visit in future. They could only afford the cremation but her stepfather had offered to pay for the plot and the headstone, declined at first, Janet had insisted that she accept.

“He’s not doing this to be nice, your reasons for wanting a burial are good reasons and not having the money is a terrible reason not to.” she had said. So she had agreed.

When she had been stood around the grave though, she had felt like she might fall in. Tom and Janet held her steady as the coffin was lowered. It all seemed a bit anti-climatic at the end. There was David, who wasn’t really David anymore and she would remain along with Ben and Bethan, who had been remarkably well behaved the whole day. She felt lucky to have them and she was determined to be the best parent she could for them.

 

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Paul was feeling really nervous about going into work, so much so that he remained his car for ten minutes after he pulled into the car park. Clare had text him the night before and told him to expect what was coming to him. He had decided to leave Amy’s earlier than planned rather than risk taking his bad mood out on her and potentially blowing everything with her too. He knew that he had been pretty deceitful in his attempts to sell the house but that was pretty standard in the industry, Sheila had confirmed that this was her attitude on the matter and that the commission was his. The deal had obviously fallen through with the explosion and he had been gutted, he was pretty sure that was his punishment. So what Clare was thinking of, he wasn’t sure but it had stressed him out. He had woken up early and gone to the gym, the same way he always did when he was worried about something. He had pushed himself far too hard for so early in the day but he would make it through work on coffee and adrenaline. He straightened his tie and took a few deep breaths before heading inside.

 

Inside the office there was a flurry of activity and Sophie was whispering to Clare as he walked through the door. He walked over to his desk and realised his computer wasn’t there. He turned to the girls and asked what was going on. Clare just smirked and carried on gossiping. Sheila poked her head around her office door and called him in. He put his briefcase down and went into the office. His mind imagining the worst. Sheila wasn’t alone in her office. She had been joined by that police woman he had met the other night at Amy’s. Something told him this really wasn’t good and he stood there, waiting for one of the women to explain what this was about.

 

Amanda’s mum had made herself comfortable at the Wightman’s home, intending to stay for quite some time. The funeral arrangements had all been sorted now and Ben and Bethan were mostly handling things quite well. There were usually tears at bedtime of course but Bethan had started back at school and her teachers were positive about how she was coping with it. Her schoolwork didn’t even seem to have been effected. Amanda had arranged for them all to see a family counsellor after the funeral, David’s insurance would pay for it to go on as long as was needed too. It was Amanda who Janet was concerned about. After her initial hours of breakdown, aside from times when David needed to be discussed for one reason and another, Amanda simply refused to utter his name. It didn’t seem healthy to Janet and she was quite convinced that sometime soon, she would completely breakdown and she wanted to be around if it did, she needed to be.

Her own husband, Amanda’s stepfather was due to arrive in the next few hours and the house would then be full. Having lost Amanda’s father twelve years ago to cancer she knew all too well that a full house eventually got empty. When it did, it would feel more empty and lonely than ever. It was unavoidable and Amanda was going to need all the support she could get to get past this. She had been fortunate enough to be able to say a painful goodbye to Tom and she hoped the funeral would help Amanda to feel like she had had a chance to say goodbye to David.

 

Joanna told Luke to come straight home after school which he promised he would, she believed him for once. As soon as he had left the house, she picked up the phone to call Martin. He didn’t answer so she left him a message. She hadn’t been to the Wightman’s since the explosion and she wasn’t sure if she’d be needed but she had decided she would go anyway. She had made a casserole the day before and there had been more than enough so she had put the remaining portion into a container to take with her. If she got there and wasn’t needed she could leave the casserole and it wouldn’t seem quite so bad. Roxy and Bertie were fussing around her legs again, she had been preoccupied so far this morning and they hadn’t even been let out to do their business. She opened the door to her garden and let them out. Before she closed the door she noticed a bit of charred wood in the garden. It must have blown there overnight, it had been a bit of a windy night. She went to pick it up and found herself staring at it for a very long time, her mind visualising what might have happened over on Broadleaf Lane a few days before.

 

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Joanna had found the police questions really hard to answer. Not for herself, she knew where she was when the explosion had taken place. They were only questioning everyone in the area to build up a time-frame an understanding of what events may have been responsible for what followed and she didn’t think she could offer anything useful. She had found it hard though because even with her suspicions about where Luke had been that day, the one thing she hadn’t allowed herself to think of was that maybe he had actually been closer to it than she had thought. Had it not been for her deciding to report her son missing out of concern that day she would have been able to do what came naturally to her and protect him by saying he had been with her. She wasn’t even sure he needed protecting but she knew she had no real way of knowing except by speaking with him. She couldn’t let him come up with any more excuses to avoid the conversation. If there was something to know and the police turned up again she would rather know and do what she could to help her son. She had woken up early and was going to wake him up long before his alarm was due to go off and speak to him. If necessary she would give him the day off school to get to the bottom of what was going on.

 

Amy was actually looking forward to today’s mother and toddler session. She was excited about the opportunity to talk to some women about her fledgling relationship. Archie had just stared at her when she had been gushing about it with him. Things were definitely going well, he was going to come round again that evening, she would probably just order a pizza rather than cook and once Archie was asleep, they could hopefully relax and watch a film together. The cozy nights in with adult company were what she missed the most about her life before Archie. She loved how well he interacted with Archie and felt like she had got very lucky by meeting him. There was something bothering her though, the first night had been fantastic and Paul had been like his normal self but he had seemed a little bit more intense these past few nights, maybe work was stressing him out. She was still happy though and pushed it to the back of her mind. Normally at these sessions the women would all be talking proudly about the nice moments their partners had had with their own children or how they had to work hard to get them to change a nappy. It would be lovely to join in for a change. Archie had even been well behaved this morning and they were able to get there without any hitch.

 

Jamie hadn’t turned anything up on the vendors of the house. She had barely slept in 72 hours since Viv had assigned her the case. Desperate to find something if it was there to be found so that she could earn some brownie points, she had gone over everything with a fine toothcomb exploring every possible line of enquiry and still turned up nothing. It was so frustrating, someone had to be responsible for the death of David Wightman, the family had had their lives turned upside down and it wasn’t fair for them not to have an answer. In her few years experience, without someone to blame, most people found it impossible to forgive and move on, there was no closure. If it wasn’t anything to do with the vendors though then someone else had to be responsible so she tried to take solace in that and sent Viv an email to request a meeting to discuss the case.

 

Ernest dropped Marian off at the supermarket, they were running low on cat food and she had offered to get it while he went to his bowling club match. She would get a taxi home but it was easier to have the lift there. In the car, they had added extra things to the list and she was trying to remember everything. Pushing the trolley around the shop, she rounded a corner without really looking at where she was going and collided gently with Mavis. The two ladies both apologised without registering who they were speaking to. When they looked up properly they greeted each other with mild surprise. They talked briefly about what they were in the shop for and then the conversation moved over to the explosion. Mavis began it, saying what a dreadful business it all had been. Apparently her grandson had been outside in the back garden when it had happened, Marian was grateful he hadn’t been hurt, she had seen the little boy often and he seemed like a very timid but nice child and it would have been horrible for him to be hurt. Mavis offered her a lift home which Marian decided to take. The conversation would keep flowing as Mavis didn’t know how to keep quiet but it would be nice to save a little money on a taxi fare. They walked around the store, occasionally putting items in their trolley and Marian finally got a chance to ask if Mavis knew when David’s funeral was and if she was thinking of going?

“I don’t know her that well but I’ll probably go for a bit to show support.”

“That would be nice, I know she would appreciate that.”

“Did you know him well?”

Marian nodded, “I didn’t see them much but David was a lovely man and a wonderful father, he worked hard for his family, they will certainly feel the loss.”

“Do you think they’ll stay?”

“I honestly don’t know, I know money will be tight for a while until the insurance comes through but they should get a decent amount from that. Her mother lives a couple of hours away and if it were my John on his own, I think he would move nearer eventually.”

Mavis enjoyed seeing her family so much and was glad they lived nearby, saying as much.

“Times like this, really do make you appreciate what you have.”

 

 

Chapter Twenty Six

It was early evening, Katherine had been home for a couple of hours and she was outside reading as it was such a nice night. Across the road, she saw Amanda taking a rubbish bag out to the bin and she decided to walk over and express her sympathies. She and Greg had only found out about David because the police had been back to ask questions about where people were at the time of the explosion and a lot of similar information. After they explained that they had both been at work until after dark that day, Greg had asked why they were asking so many questions and they had explained the severity of the situation. They didn’t know the Wightman’s that well but death was one of those things that everyone could empathise with to some extent and it was very close to home. They had both agreed that if there was anything they could do to help their neighbour that they should do it and Katherine extended the offer to Amanda as they talked. Amanda didn’t say much during the exchange but Katherine hadn’t expected her to. She asked when the funeral would be, as the details were still being finalised, she insisted that Amanda tell her once things were confirmed and to call if there was anything that her or Greg could do from cooking to babysitting. Amanda nodded and said she would and went back inside to be with her kids. Back at her own house, Katherine felt lucky to still have Greg and decided to do something nice for him when he got home.

 

Donald handed his wife a mug of tea as she sat on the sofa. He hadn’t had the easiest of days today but he had at least had some positive news and he had been excited to share it with her. He had waited until Lynn and the children had gone so he could broach the subject without interruption but now it was just them he felt almost nervous about what her reaction would be. He joined her on the sofa and asked how her day had been, taking a gradual approach. She made a comment about how tired she had been again and he felt a familiar wave of concern, asking her what she’d been doing when she had felt like that. She couldn’t pin it down and he decided he would try and cheer her up with his news.

“I found out today that I’m getting a bonus and a rise. Everyone in the department is but I thought we could do something nice with the bonus, go on holiday perhaps? The raise should make moving easy too. If you still want to downsize?”

Mavis looked at her husband for a minute as if she was still taking in what he had said or checking that she had in fact heard him right. It was the reaction he had hoped for, he knew she would be pleased. The house was getting too much for her to handle considering how much support she gave Lynn with looking after the children and he didn’t want her to struggle, it wasn’t fair. If he didn’t step in, she would always take on too much and he really didn’t want that for her.

“What about Lynn though? If we go away?”

“They can manage for a couple of weeks I’m sure. You need a holiday and I wouldn’t mind getting a break myself.”

Mavis nodded and held her husband’s hand, sitting back into the sofa, he began suggesting places they might go on their holiday as she dozed off.

 

Angela had finished packing up her overnight bag and set it down next to the bed. Oliver was out at the gym. He had been out a lot more than she would have expected but she was grateful he had let her stay so long. She wasn’t looking forward to going back to work on Monday or even being home without him again. Things hadn’t worked out with the guy she had taken a risk on and although she knew Oliver would never take her back she couldn’t help wishing she had just kept hold of what she had. She sat at the foot of the bed looking around the now familiar bedroom. It had touches of Oliver everywhere but dotted about she could see where her own influence had rubbed off on him. There were a couple of picture frames she had bought during their marriage, the photos had been replaced but she recognised them. After his aunt’s funeral she suspected their friendship or whatever it was they were currently experiencing would be over. She had tried to think of a way to make sure they could stay as part of one anothers lives but he seemed pretty determined to move forward without her. She had earned that she supposed.

 

Mark was looking forward to this evening when he could spend a bit more time with Holly and Joseph. Once a month he drove the two hours to Karen’s house and took the children out to do something like bowling or the cinema, it gave her another night off where she could spend time with her new partner and him more time with the children, it was a long drive but worth it. He stayed in a hotel halfway between the two so his return journey was broken up and these days he usually had company. It was too much of a journey for Harriet and Grace and he was grateful for the time to dedicate to his other two children. He constantly worried that he was missing out on their lives and that as they got older they would want to spend less time with him. Tonight Holly had insisted on ice-skating, something he hadn’t done in years but all of Holly’s friends were doing it so that was where they were going. He pulled into a services on the motorway to get a drink and to call Viv to confirm their hotel details, she didn’t answer so he sent her a text instead. She was probably busy with the investigation but he was still hopeful she would make it. It had been an odd week and it felt like he hadn’t seen her in much longer.

 

Chapter Twenty Five

Viv put the report from the fire investigative team down on her desk. The fire had been started by a petrol bomb. Somewhere in the kitchen some gas had been left on and when the fire had met the gas, the explosion had been inevitable. Something told her that the two incidents were unconnected and that it had just been a tragic chain of events. This did mean though that she was looking for at least two parties who would ultimately be charged with manslaughter. However she hadn’t ruled out the owners of the house which had only been on the market a few weeks, they were overseas so there was an alibi of sorts but it wasn’t hard to pay someone from wherever you were in the world. More questions could certainly be asked and she decided to assign Jamie to that line of enquiry. It would distract her and help her to feel like she was doing something to help, that would make it easier to move past any distress she was feeling for the Wightman’s.

 

The other line of enquiry though, that would require a bit more focus and wider resources. The gas being left on could have happened for any number of reasons. How many people had been in that house and had the opportunity was the first thing that needed to be established. Secondly there was the petrol bomb, obviously deliberate but had it also been a targeted attack or just a random act of vandalism. The statements from those who lived in the houses nearby were the best place to start but the way the trees stood and had shielded the garden from view made it unlikely that anyone had seen anything of any value. She had a lot of work to do but she was desperate for a break and a glass of wine. She hadn’t spoken to Mark since the day before the explosion when she had cancelled their planned rendez-vous because she’d been too tired. It had worked out considering how busy she had been since then but she hoped he might be able to see her now. She sent him a coded text message for him to respond to when he was free to, as she always did when she initiated their conversations, drank her coffee and went back to reviewing the limited evidence gathered so far.

 

Joanna arrived at the Harrison’s just after Harriet had returned from a shopping trip with Grace. Grace was upstairs trying on her new shoes. The sight of so many designer bags on the kitchen table made Joanna feel a little queasy. Harriet was talking about the sales as if they made it more of a good deal. Joanna was certain that the items contained in those bags alone would equate to more than what she had ever spent on her whole wardrobe. It wasn’t that she disliked clothes or shopping, she found it quite enjoyable but some people just seemed to have an endless stream of money and didn’t know how to use it. Harriet was now talking about retail therapy, saying it was very much needed. Joanna didn’t pry, it might have been what Harriet was angling for but she had enough on her mind and she didn’t want to let slip about the letter by mistake. As Harriet made herself a drink, Joanna excused herself to get started on the cleaning.

 

Taking the vacuum out from under the stairs she began vacuuming the hall. As she did so, her mind replayed the conversations she had had in the past few days with Martin, trying to figure out how likely he was to back her up with parenting their son. Most of the time, she was a single parent in every sense but with Luke going off the rails so much, she knew he needed a stronger hand than she could offer. For the past two years, he had increasingly only listened to his father’s opinions or so it seemed to her. Martin might not have been the most reliable parents but maybe Luke needed to learn that for himself. Whatever he was hiding this time felt more serious than anything he had previously been involved in. One thing was certain, she couldn’t cope on her own anymore. She had been toying with whether or not to confront Luke about what she had heard outside his bedroom door. Knowing him as she did, she suspected it wouldn’t be a good idea. He would probably get defensive and come up with a lie. She knew she could try the approach of asking if there was anything he wanted to talk to her about. Tell him that he could always come to her with anything, she doubted it would work though, he never wanted to talk. Harriet walked past her in the hallway, carrying her shopping bags upstairs.

“I’m going to be trying these on for a while, can you do the bedroom tomorrow instead?”

“No problem.” Joanna nodded as Harriet continued upstairs, she wondered how serious Mark’s affair was and if he might leave her. Someday, something would have to take her down a peg or three.

 

Clare was on her way back to the office and realised she was near Broadleaf Lane, if it hadn’t been for the explosion she wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere near it. She had been so gutted to lose the sale and Paul had definitely played a dirty game there but karma had served her well once again. She had missed the news about it and only found out when Paul had come in the next day and had a meeting with Sheila as soon as he arrived. His mood told her half the story and the rest had been confirmed by Sheila later during a coffee break. Curiosity got the better of her and she turned onto the Lane to see the damage. The land might be sold instead but it was more likely a developer would snap it up at an auction. There was barely anything left of the house, the two houses either side told a story with their boarded up windows but there was just a pile of bricks, wood and some belongings which were slowly being cleared away. There was still a police presence which put her off staying too long. She had never seen a house in this state before and she felt a shiver at how she had been in there just a few days before. It was odd how secure something could feel until you saw how fragile it really was. She drove back to the office and made herself a coffee without offering one to anyone else.