She crept around the side of the house and into the garden. The paint on the back door was cracked and blistered. It may once have been black, or possibly dark green. It was so faded and corrupted now that it really was hard to tell. She tried to see through one of the opaque glass panes in the upper half but all four were so grubby that nothing was visible inside the house. She stood back and looked at the door in its frame. Nobody had opened this door for months or even years. That was obvious from the undisturbed state of the thick layers of cobweb draped and looping from one side of the frame to the other.
She had seen the man come through the front gate ten minutes or so ago, and watched him stride confidently along the drive, ignoring the overgrown front garden and boarded up front door and windows.
Where was he? She looked around the garden. No shed, no garage, no obvious holes in the fence. Unless he was hiding in the long wet grass, he had just...vanished.
She had been following him since yesterday, when Mrs Harman gave her the job. It seemed his fiancee had noticed big changes in his behaviour, and, rather than come straight out and ask him, like Becca would have in this woman's situation, she preferred to spend twenty-five pounds an hour plus expenses to have the poor guy stalked by Mrs Harman or one of her two ''operatives''. Becca was one. The other was Annie. It had to be Becca on this job, as Annie had been off sick when the job came in. Funny that... phoning in sick the day after her Hen night. Yeah - right!
So far it had been boring. Yesterday morning he had caught the 08.35 number 18 bus into the town centre, getting off at the doctor's surgery, walked along West Street until he reached the bakery, gone in, and come out a few minutes later carrying a corrugated paper cup and a white paper bag. He had then crossed the road and walked into the Wessex Building Society. There he had remained all day, while she sat in the park across the road, reading her book, a series of magazines, and watching the door of the Building Society. Every hour or so, she had a cigarette and a mug of coffee from her Thermos, just to break the monotony. She couldn't drink too much coffee, though, not on a job like this one. No chance to go to the loo, for one thing. You needed a strong bladder - it was the first thing Mrs Harman mentioned at the interview.
There was a nice little restaurant next to the park. It was a shame Mark Ruskin didn't seem to use it for business lunches or she could have followed him in and had a bit of a change of scene, not to mention making better use of the ''expenses''. But no, so far he seemed to have been happy to sit at his desk eating whatever it was he'd picked up at the bakery. At 5.30 in the afternoon, he'd re-emerged from the Building Society, walked to the bus stop opposite the doctor's, and caught the 5.43 number 18 bus which dropped him outside his house. Once he was there, Becca waited in her car until his fiancee, Donna arrived home, half an hour later, when it was up to her to watch him.
Today had been exactly the same as yesterday, right up to 5.30 this afternoon. Instead of waiting at the bus stop opposite the doctor's, he had crossed the road to the other one, right outside the surgery,and headed in the opposite direction. Becca's car was facing the wrong way to follow the bus, so she ran down to the surgery and jumped on behind him.
He had got off three stops later, and turned into this little road, and walked to this strange, run-down house. Then disappeared.
Becca walked to the right of the back door and looked up at the upstairs window. She listened very carefully, She was sure she could hear voices, laughter. A man's voice. And then another man's voice. Yes, it was definitely deeper than the first. Was she mistaken? Surely the voices were coming from next door. There was no way for anyone to have gone into this place through that back door.
She walked back to the door, just to check, and her legs turned to jelly. The door was open.