Today is my stop on The Dog Walker Blog tour and I am really happy to be showing you a little extract of the book along with hosting a Rafflecopter giveaway for one copy of the book!!
Monday, 4 January 2016
Stella used Google Maps on her phone to find Thames Cottages.
With the audio muted, Stanley snuffling at her side, the blue line
on the map took her down an alley off Kew Green, left, then
right. Thames Cottages was a terrace of five houses – she was
outside number 5 – set back from narrow front gardens. The app
showed the Thames at right angles to the steps at the end of the
pavement as a cheery lighter blue ribbon as if it was the seaside.
The towpath ran to the left and the right of the little street.
Late at night was hardly the best time to scout out Natasha
Latimer’s ‘haunted house’, but after a long wait in Accident and
Emergency – Suzie’s ankle was badly sprained – Stella needed to
clear her head. She would scope the ghost-hunting escapade –
her mum’s term – from the outside.
St Anne’s Church clock struck eleven forty-five. The chimes,
floating on the cold air, seemed to come from all around. The
cottages, essentially one building subdivided, were in darkness,
chimneys black against the orange-mauve sky. Stella had relied
on the occupants being asleep; she hoped to go unnoticed.
Keeping Stanley close, she trod softly to a lamp-post at the
top of the steps. Natasha Latimer had said her ‘property’ was
nearest to the river.
Latimer had decamped to a flat she owned in central London
– Stella had gathered the impression that Latimer owned several
the dog walker properties – until ‘you’ve done the business’. A gust of wind
swished through a hedge on her left. The map showed a park.
Stella felt a frisson of unease. At night with only Stanley for
company, she couldn’t so easily dismiss the possibility of ghosts.
From the outside Latimer’s house looked like a typical country
cottage; it even had roses growing around the door. However,
the garden, flagstones set in gravel and three large black marble
cubes, undercut this image. Stella, a fan of simplicity, found
herself preferring number 2’s scrubby patch in which plastic pots
spilled over with dead weeds.
Stanley tugged on his lead. Feeling apologetic – he had missed
most of his agility class – she let him pull her up the steps to the
Stella wasn’t prepared for the lack of light and tripped, and just
avoided falling on to the shingled path. She unclipped Stanley’s
lead. He chased off into the spangled darkness. Stella made out
a pale shape before it vanished. This was out of character; she’d
presumed that he’d potter about near her sniffing and then lift
his leg. He must have smelled a fox or seen a cat. She fumbled in
her pocket for her phone to turn on the torch app, but couldn’t
find it. She must have dropped it when she tripped. She scrabbled
around on the shingle. Gradually her eyes became accustomed to
the dark. In both directions, the towpath, a pallid strip, tapered
into blackness. Stanley had gone off to the right. Stella nearly
shouted with relief as her fingers touched the leather case of her
phone. She switched on the torch.
Stanley wasn’t on the path. She pointed the light over a low
parapet to the river below. The wall was about thirty centimetres
wide. With his agility skills, Stanley could walk along it. But he
was clumsy and one false step would send him tumbling. The
tide was in; she could hear water sloshing against the bank.
She couldn’t see Stanley, but if he had fallen, he would have been
washed downstream. She went numb with dread.
Dry-mouthed, Stella ripped open her jacket and yanked out
the whistle from around her neck. Aware she was near houses, she blew gently. The low hollow sound signalled terrible reality.
Stanley had drowned. Reckless of tripping she ran along the path,
swinging the torch into scrub either side. The light accentuated
the darkness. It was so thick, she felt she would suffocate.
She stopped and this time blew hard on the whistle. In the
ensuing quiet she heard the wash of the river and the hiss of
wind in the trees. Suddenly she was in the open. Facing the river
was a detached house, double-fronted with a gabled roof. It was
dilapidated, guttering hung loose from the roof and when Stella
crossed a grass verge and neared the house, she saw cobwebs
slung across the window sashes.
Stanley trotted out of the porch. Stella rushed over to him.
He was too quick and her fingers only brushed his collar. He
ran down the side of the house. She plunged after him, calling
his name in a fierce whisper for fear of waking anyone in the
house. Abruptly, as if reminded of his obedience classes, Stanley
sat down. She fixed on his lead. He wouldn’t budge. Giving up
on a tug of war that Stanley would win because she couldn’t hurt
his neck, Stella scooped him up and raced across the grass to the
towpath. The back of her neck prickled with the sense of being
watched from the dirty grey windows. With leaden legs – Stanley
got heavier with each step – she stalked back along the towpath.
Blood coursed through her veins like an electrical charge. At
last she saw the lamp-post by the steps to Thames Cottages. She
broke into a trot, veered off the path and down the steps.
She hurried past the little terrace of cottages and into the alley.
She didn’t stop until she reached her van on Kew Green.
Suddenly aware she was panting, she secured Stanley into his
jump seat and slid shut the door. The church clock on Kew
Green chimed midnight. She had been by the river for fifteen
minutes; it felt like forever.
She reached down to the ignition. There was a tap on the glass.
Nerves frayed, Stella stifled a shout. A face was at the window.
Pale and gaunt. The ghost. She opened the door, thinking too
late that it was the very last thing she should have done.
‘Ye-es.’ Fifties. Brown suede jacket. Brown polo-neck jumper.
A two-day beard. He looked ‘respectable’. And he looked real
flesh and blood. She was a poor judge of character. She needed
Jack. She needed Jack anyway.
‘I saw the name on your van. Amazing coincidence! I was
about to call Clean Slate.’
‘You need a cleaner?’ His hand was on the door. She couldn’t
‘No! Cleaning’s one thing that I’m good at. I want a detective.’
He raked a hand through his mop of greying hair. ‘I want you to
find my wife.’
Meet the Author
Lesley Thomson was born in 1958 and grew up in London. She went to Holland Park Comprehensive and the Universities of Brighton and Sussex. Her novel A Kind of Vanishing won The People’s Book Prize in 2010. Lesley combines writing with teaching creative writing. She lives in Lewes with her partner. (Goodreads)