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‘The last time?'
‘Yeah, the last time. If you … if we … take down another…'
‘If we have to, we'll have done our job. That's all. Just like the last time.'
A brief silence. A muted thud and the hint of another moan crept from behind the frosted glass door.
‘So … we go in? We're absolutely sure it's justified?'
‘You heard the 999 call. You heard the noises in the house. It sounds like he's murdering her. We don't have time to mess about.'
‘Yeah, yeah, I know. It's just … OK … so … the usual way?'
One silhouette touched the rim of its cap with a forefinger, breathed out hard. The other rubbed reverentially at a shining, silver crucifix hanging around its neck. They exchanged a fast glance, each nodded. The rituals of luck were complete.
It was time.
A heavy black boot thumped into the door. It shuddered, but held. Again, and a complaining creak. Again, and the moan of warping plastic. Harder now and a splitting crash. The door careered open, juddering against a wall.
They edged in, one leading, one covering, both half crouched, pistols poised.
The hallway was narrow, in semi-darkness, pictures hanging at dizzy angles. A sunnyDartmoorlandscape. A greyNew Yorkskyline. A wood-framed mirror, split with a diagonal crack.
A corner loomed. They slowed, carefully rounded it, step by sideways step. Underfoot a soaking, squelching carpet and a flickering blue luminescence from a smashed fish tank. Fronds of water still trickled, crunching broken glass, tiny golden outlines flipping weak and helpless on the floor.
Another corner. Open space now.