A helicopter! Rescue!
She hadn’t felt afraid before. When she thought death was inevitable, she’d been able to accept it, to make her peace. But now that there was a chance of life, of salvation, adrenaline and desperation coursed through Alexia’s body once more.
I want to live!
Only her face was above the waterline now. Instinctively she tried to wave her arms for help, but they were cuffed and weighted beneath the waves. She began to cry.
“I’m here!” she shouted futilely at the sky. “I’m here! Please, help me!”
The helicopter hovered directly above for a few seconds, so close and yet so tantalizingly out of reach. Alexia strained her eyes against the brightness, searching for a ladder or a rope. Instead, without warning, the chopper turned and sped off into the blue.
“NO!” Alexia screamed. There was no mistaking her terror now. “No, please! Don’t leave me!”
From her ledge-top vantage point, Lucy Meyer smiled.
This is for you, Nicko, my darling.
Soon they would be together again.
Summer dug her fingernails into the crumbling rock as she descended the path.
They’re here. They have to be here.
The way down to the cove was steeper than she remembered it, and the tides were so high she couldn’t see any beach at all from the top of the cliff. But the water bottle had confirmed it. This deep into the moor, there was only one place her mother could be going.
Then suddenly, like two figures in a dream, there they were. Rounding the bend where the path doubled back on itself, Summer saw her mother, crouching on a ledge above a sliver of sandy shore. She wouldn’t have seen Alexia at all had she not followed Lucy’s gaze to a point about twenty feet in front of her. Out in the water, a lone human head bobbed like a buoy.
Lucy spun around. “Get out of here!” she screamed at Summer. How on earth did she find us so quickly? “Get back up the cliff. It’s too dangerous.”
“Not without you.”
“I said go back!” Lucy raised her gun.
Summer’s eyes widened with shock. She wouldn’t shoot, would she? Not her own daughter.
“Go back!” Lucy shouted again.
Summer hesitated. As she did so, the sandy rock crumbled beneath her.
Arnie Meyer was the first out of the helicopter.
Ripping off his headphones, ignoring the shouts of the two policemen, he ran out onto the moor, half stooping, perilously close to the still-whirring propeller blades.
“Stop, you idiot!” the surveillance officer yelled after him. But Arnie kept running, blindly, toward the edge of the cliff.
He heard a woman’s scream, then another.
Dear God! Don’t let me be too late.
Lucy watched, horrified, as her daughter fell, screaming, her arms and legs flailing wildly like a puppet with its strings cut. Summer landed on an open ledge about halfway down the cliff face. Her head hit the ground with a sickening thud. The screams stopped.
Lucy looked out to sea. Alexia was almost completely submerged now. She turned back to her daughter, lying prone and lifeless on the ledge.
This isn’t right! It’s not supposed to happen like this.
She wanted to watch Nicko’s killer drown. She’d waited so long for this moment. All her life. But what if Summer were still alive? What if her baby needed help, desperately, and she stood by and did nothing? Irrationally, Lucy felt a rush of anger. Why did Summer have to come here? Why did she have to ruin it all?
Lucy looked up. Three men were at the top of the path. One had his gun drawn and trained on her. A second was scrambling along the ledge toward Summer. Lucy looked closer. Oh my God, is that Arnie?
“Drop your weapon and put your hands above your head.”
Lucy ignored these instructions, turning her attention instead to the third man. Rappelling down the cliff face, a life ring tied to his waist, he was clearly headed toward Alexia.
“Ma’am. I said drop your weapon!”
Lucy closed her eyes and tightened her grip on her gun. It was so hard to concentrate.
The man at the top of the cliff was still shouting. “Drop it now or I’ll shoot!”
Why won’t he be quiet? I can’t think with all this noise.
To her left, Lucy saw that Summer was sitting up. Arnie had managed to reach her. He was holding her now, talking to her.
That’s good. They have each other.
Below her, the rappelling cop had reached the ground and was unclipping himself from his safety rope. Lucy watched him dive into the water. Only the top of Alexia’s head was visible now, but it could take so long to drown. She was probably still alive. If he got her to the beach and resuscitated her fast enough . . .
It was then that Lucy knew what she had to do.
Taking careful aim, she fired a single shot directly at Alexia’s skull.
Arnie Meyer screamed.
Too late. It’s done.
Turning to face Arnie, Lucy blew him and their daughter a kiss. Then, before the cop at the top of the cliff had time to react, she slipped the barrel of the gun into her own mouth and pulled the trigger.
Down on the shore, the softly lapping waves kept up their peaceful, timeless rhythm.
Only now they were red with blood.
England. One year later.
Roxie De Vere gazed out of the train window in a reflective mood.
It was a beautiful line, the slow train into London from West Sussex, taking its passengers through woods blanketed with bluebells, past pretty flint cottages and impressive stone manors, across rivers and deep into valleys lined with lush green pastureland, some of the richest and most fertile in England. Signs of spring were everywhere, in the blossoming apple and cherry trees, in the plaintive bleating of the newborn lambs searching out their mothers, in the crisp, cool breezes gusting in across the Channel from France.
Roxie De Vere thought, It’s the kind of day that makes one feel lucky to be alive. And Roxie did feel lucky, albeit a luck that was tinged with sadness, and with regret for all that was lost. She only had one parent now. One person left living in this world with whom she could share her childhood memories. Reminisce over happier days. Cry over the sad ones.
Shared happiness, shared pain, shared regret. It wasn’t the easiest of foundations on which to rebuild a relationship. But it was all that Roxie De Vere had. That and a couple of days a month of visiting time. Contrary to popular belief, Her Majesty’s prisons were no bed of roses. Life there wasn’t all open-ended visiting hours and strolls through the grounds. A stark room, smelling of disinfectant and despair, full of tables with inmates on one side and visitors on the other. That was to be the setting for all their meetings from now until . . .
No. I mustn’t think about that.
Roxie forced herself not to think about the future.
If the past few years had taught her one thing, it was that anything could happen. Live for today. Love for today. Forgive for today.
She repeated the mantra softly to herself as the train rattled on.
The worst thing about prison life was the boredom. The monotony of each day, broken only by bells and meals, and divided into chunks of time—work, leisure, exercise, sleep—that seemed to bear no relation to reality, to the rhythms of the world outside.
The only way to make it bearable was to detach from your former life completely. To forget who you had been on the outside, and accept this new world fully and without question.
Inmate 5067 had become adept at such detachment. Of course, having a famous name made things harder. Other prisoners were less willing to put aside the past, to forget who Inmate 5067 really was—who the prisoner had been. They remembered why Inmate 5067 was here, despite the aristocratic name and political connections, rubbing shoulders with drug dealers and killers and stooping to manual labor just like the rest of them.
There was no violence. No intimidation. At least, there hadn’t been yet. But Inmate 5067 would never be accepted into mainstream prison society. Life was lonely. Then again, that was part of the punishment, wasn’t it? Part of what I deserve. Roxie’s visits were a lifeline in some ways, but they were also painful, a sharp reminder of all that prison had taken away.
Waiting in the visitors’ room as the prisoners’ families and friends filed in, Inmate 5067 felt breathless with anticipation. What if she hadn’t made it? What if something happened and she changed her mind? But no, there she was! Roxie, smiling as she maneuvered her wheelchair through the tables, the proverbial ray of sunshine.
My daughter. My darling daughter. God bless her for finding it in her heart to forgive.