Read an Excerpt
A Naomi Blake Novel
By Jane A. Adams
Severn House Publishers LimitedCopyright © 2012 Jane A. Adams
All rights reserved.
Patrick had been fifteen when he and Naomi had first met. Son of a childhood friend, he had come into Naomi's life when she and Patrick's father, Harry, had renewed their acquaintance.
Patrick had then seemed young for his age; slow to grow, uncertain, and naturally sensitive and gentle. The past few years had conspired to turn sensitivity first into introspection and then into quiet confidence, and the young man, not quite eighteen, who sat in her kitchen discussing plans for university seemed unbelievably far removed from the shy boy she had first come to know.
He was telling her about the portfolio he had produced for his end of year show at college. His exam portfolio – more restrained and constrained by the brief he had been given – had been sent off, and he could do no more about it. His efforts now focused on this, the first public exposure of his work and the first real opportunity to show something of his personal interests.
'It's still sort of graphic heavy,' he said. 'But I've been playing around with all these Japanese influences – I mean, not just the manga stuff. I started looking at all these old Japanese prints. You can kind of see how Japanese artists got from those to the manga —'
'Yeah. Kind of, anyway. It's like both styles pare everything down so you can represent complex ideas with just simple outlines and a few colours and the minimum of shading. Did you know that in the nineteenth century Japanese prints were used as packing in crates? You know, like bubble wrap? That's how a lot of them made it over to Europe. I mean, what a waste.'
Naomi hadn't known that. 'So, you'll be learning to make woodcuts next?' she joked, was met with a beat of silence.
'I'd kind of like to give it a go,' Patrick admitted. 'I like the discipline of it. It's like the discipline in graphic novels. Nothing goes to waste. If it's there, it's there for a reason, and you have to notice it because you're going to need it later, if you know what I mean.'
Naomi nodded. 'I really wish I could see it,' she said wistfully. There were few occasions now when Naomi allowed herself to feel any kind of self-pity for her loss of sight, but there were definitely times when this regret was unexpectedly overwhelming.
'So do I,' Patrick told her. 'But I'm really glad you're coming to the exhibition. Dad listens to you, even if he doesn't get what I'm trying to achieve. If you say it's OK, then —'
Naomi reached across the table and fumbled for Patrick's hand. 'He's trying really hard to "get it",' she said.
'Yes, I know.' Patrick laughed suddenly. 'I think the only way Dad would really appreciate my work is if I copied The Hay Wain or something.'
Naomi smiled. There was no bitterness in this statement, simply acknowledgement that Harry Jones was, well, Harry Jones.
The big black dog, lying beneath the table, beat his tail against Naomi's leg and then sat up and laid his muzzle in her lap. She stroked him absently. Napoleon had been her guide dog for just a few months longer than she had known Patrick, and she always saw them as being part of the same package, somehow. Good friends converging on her life in very close order.
'Sue is expecting again,' she said, changing the subject.
'Really? Think she'll have a girl this time?'
'I think she's hoping so, but I don't think they really mind either way. A baby is a baby to Sue. Some people are just born to be parents.'
'You think you ever will?' The question was slightly tentative. 'I mean, you and Alec would make great parents.'
'Alec would,' Naomi agreed. 'I'm not so sure. I think you've really got to want children, and right now I'm happy sharing my sister's.' She paused, thinking of a conversation she and Alec had had some months before, but not reprised, when Alec had been keen to start a family. At the time he'd also been mad keen on moving to rural Somerset and starting a smallholding, or, alternatively, going back to university, none of which options he had pursued since.
'We have talked about it,' she said.
Naomi smiled, amused at how shocked Patrick sounded, as though he just couldn't imagine the reality of it: Alec and Naomi and babies. 'Yes, before Christmas, when we stayed in Somerset. Alec was really in the doldrums. It was a difficult time with the job, and for while I really didn't think he'd want to go back to work.'
It had been a difficult time since too. Disciplinary hearings and major inquiries into cases Alec had been involved in the year before. Alec had been largely cleared of blame; he'd been reprimanded and suspended for a couple of weeks, then eased quietly back into work. The biggest changes had been at the top – a new Superintendent and DCI – but there was also the unspoken, general feeling that Alec was still under a cloud. Big investigations had come and gone, and Alec had largely been sidelined. He had said little about it, but Naomi knew it rankled.
The sound of the front door opening and a voice calling from the hallway brought Naomi out of her reverie. When Patrick came round after college, his father often dropped by to collect him on his way from work. Naomi always left the door unlocked so he could come straight in.
'In here,' Naomi called. The kitchen door opened, and the presence of Harry Jones seemed to fill the small space. The dog nuzzled Naomi's hand, as though asking her permission, then left her to go and greet Harry. Patrick got up to put the kettle on, and Harry bent to kiss Naomi on the cheek.
'That's just running from the car. June rain. At least it isn't cold, I suppose. How are you? How did the hang go, Patrick?'
'Took ages. No one could decide where they wanted their work to go, so I just picked a wall in the end and put my pictures up. It looks OK, I think.'
'It will look more than OK,' Harry reassured him. He eased down into one of the wooden chairs with a sigh of relief.
'Long day?' Naomi asked.
'Oh, far too long. Too many figures.'
'Well, that's what you get for being an accountant.'
'It is indeed.'
Harry freelanced for half the week now, keeping his old job on part time. He seemed happier, Naomi thought, though the workload was sometimes much heavier. He was eight years older than Naomi, but Alec always reckoned he looked ten more than that, with his once sandy hair now faded grey and a face creased by too many wrinkles. A lived-in face, as Patrick always said. To Naomi, who had lost her sight before Harry had returned to Pinsent, he was still the older brother to her then best friend. A freckled teen, with a friendly smile, pale-blue eyes and a slight tendency to carry weight around his middle even then.
'Your mother phoned to finalize Florida,' Harry said to Patrick. 'We'll be flying out on the first of August.'
'Good, we'll be in time for Rick's birthday.'
'That was the idea.' Harry sounded a little uncertain about it. Not surprising, Naomi thought, as Harry and Patrick's mother had been divorced for several years now and it must feel a bit odd to be going along when Patrick went to visit. Rick was one of Patrick's stepbrothers. Patrick got on really well with both of them, as the need for both families to buy a Skype phone attested. He even liked his stepfather now he didn't actually have to live with him, and relations between Harry and his ex and her new husband – once Harry's old boss – had thawed, largely because of the way both sets of children had clicked.
'It'll be fine, Dad,' Patrick told him. 'I want you to be there, and I'm really looking forward to New York.'
'Ah,' Harry said mischievously. 'Now we're getting to the crux of the matter. You want me along just so you can get to New York.'
'Parents have their uses you know.'
The sound of the front door opening again surprised them all. Harry looked at his watch. 'Early for Alec.'
The front door slammed.
'Not in a good mood,' Naomi said.
'You want us to leave?'
'No, of course not.' Too late by then, anyway. Alec had opened the kitchen door and stood in the threshold.
'I've got to go away,' he said, sounding utterly aggrieved. 'They've bloody seconded me.'
'Who has? Away where? And don't I get a kiss?'
'Oh, sorry.' He bent and kissed her. Harry had been more enthusiastic, Naomi thought, amused. She heard Alec pull out a chair and sit down and Patrick set a mug on the table in front of him and then Naomi.
'So tell,' she said. 'What's going on? Where are they sending you and when?'
'Tonight,' Alec told her, and she understood why he felt so put out. 'No notice, no time to even think about it. I've got to collect Travers in an hour and will be gone for God knows how long.'
Naomi, who had been a serving officer herself, was familiar with that problem. She'd once gone on what she'd been told was a three-day cover for an industrial dispute and ended up being away for a full month. 'So —'
'Fraud case,' Alec said.
'Fraud? But you're not —'
'It impacts on a case I was involved in a year or so ago. Apparently, there have been developments, so I've got to reprise the investigation from my point of view and bring the current team up to speed and then ... Well, then who knows?'
Naomi tried to work out what case it might have been. Had they been alone, he would have told her, but Alec was discreet, even with very close friends.
'We'll get off,' Harry said. 'Let you pack. You know we'll be around for Naomi while you're gone.'
'Thanks, I appreciate that. Naomi, any chance of a sandwich while I throw some clothes in a bag?'
Naomi saw Harry and Patrick out, settling on a time for Harry to collect her for Patrick's exhibition and assuring them that Alec would be fine when he'd got over his fit of pique.
'So,' she asked, when he came back down and settled to wolf his sandwich, 'what's going on?'
Alec swallowed and took another gulp of tea. 'You remember Neil Robinson and that insurance scam he had going?'
'Well, whatever it is I'm being seconded to do is related to that. There, now you know as much as me. I'm not even sure where I'm going. Travers is coming with me, so we're taking his car. I dropped him and then drove it here. More reliable than our heap is at the moment. Look, if you get the time, can you ask Harry to take you car shopping? Three times this week the damn thing refused to start. I had to leave it at work this time.'
'It's probably just the battery.'
'I changed the battery.'
'Two years ago. But yes, I'll ask Harry. And you don't know how long —?'
'Don't know a damned thing. I'm sorry, Naomi. We had plans for this weekend.'
'Which will keep. Don't worry about it. Patrick will be disappointed you're missing his show, though; we'll send pictures to your mobile.'
'Do that. I'm sorry, too – this is a big thing for him, isn't it?'
'First of many, I hope. Seriously, though, how long do you think you'll be gone?'
She felt him shake his head. 'I've packed for three or four days. Hopefully, that will be it. And I'll make a point of getting back as often as I can, you know that. Just now I'm not even sure where I'll be going. Someone's supposed to be sending a route through to Travers so he can program the satnav.'
'It all sounds a bit mysterious.'
'Doesn't it, though. But that would fit. Apparently, Robinson was ripping off some big names, government bods, and there was a hint at foreign government deals.'
'I thought it was just an insurance scam?'
'Sort of. I mean, that was one part of it. That was what we actually got him on in the end, and on that basis he should have been out of jail any time now, but we knew he was something of a con artist – some kind of Ponzi scheme, you know, stock market stuff. I'd started to make inroads there, but it'd lost me and I handed over to the experts. We prepared a case based on what we knew about the insurance scam, got him to court and sent down for two years, and that's the last I heard. There was talk about filing other charges later.'
'So the prison sentence allowed them time to prepare another case against him.'
'That's about the size of it. Seems they did, and I was right: Robinson was part of something much bigger.'
'You said he should have been out of prison by now?'
'This month, yes. He'd served most of his sentence in a category C open prison down South. All seemed fine, so he got time off for good behaviour and because we can't keep anyone for too long, not with the waiting list we've got. Anyway. Last week Robinson was found dead in his cell. He'd been complaining of chest pains, and the medic had been called. By the time he got there it was too late. They did a PM and found someone had poisoned him.'
'Poisoned? No chance it was suicide?'
'Apparently not. He was about to be released, so the assumption is —'
'Someone on the outside didn't want him around?'
'Someone didn't want him talking. Turns out he, or someone on his behalf, had made three phone calls to Jamie Dale, in the past month.'
'The Jamie Dale? Our Jamie Dale? Wasn't she —?'
'Killed in a car crash just over a week ago.'
'So, what had he told her?'
'Or what was he about to tell her? And what was she about to write about it? Whatever it was, she can't tell us now, but we can't rule out the possibility it had something to do with him getting killed, so the pressure is well and truly on.'
When Alec had left, Naomi felt flat and very out of sorts. She had looked forward to an evening with Alec, probably not doing anything very much – a walk, maybe, down beside the river, a bit of television later on. And she hated sleeping alone.
When she had moved into her flat she had relished the idea of her own space and her own bed. Of being independent of anyone else's wishes. Since marrying Alec and moving here, into what had once been just Alec's house and, more particularly, since the events of the winter, when at one point Naomi had been certain she was going to die – and a meaningless, pointless death at that – she had grown more and more to dislike being on her own at night. Night-time was when the world and all its memories crowded in upon her and when bed was not a sanctuary unless that space was shared. Not even Napoleon's comforting presence could really sooth her.
She poured herself a glass of wine and took it, and the phone, outside into the garden and settled in the swing seat beside the pond. She heard Napoleon bend to lap the water and then dip a paw to splash at the fish. Birds sang out to mark their evening territory, and something rustled in the flower beds. Peace, she told herself. Quiet and calm and warm evening sun. All was fine.
She remained unconvinced.
Naomi sipped wine and listened to the night-time sounds gathering around her and breathed in the scents of jasmine and honeysuckle and the thornless rose – the name of which she could never remember – that Alec had planted next to the swing seat. And she tried to remember what, if anything else, she knew about the Robinson case that had now called Alec away or about the dead journalist, Jamie Dale. Professionally, she and Alec had run into Jamie Dale on a number of occasions. She'd started out working for one of the free newspapers, covering school fêtes and consumer issues, and Naomi and Alec had inevitably met with her when, as young, uniformed officers, they had been present at some of the same events. For a while, Jamie and Naomi and a group of other young women had met regularly for nights out. As, one by one, they had begun serious relationships or got more demanding jobs, those regular nights had become occasional and then diminished altogether.
Alec and Naomi had gained promotion, and Jamie had become a stringer for a couple of national papers. Apart from the odd Christmas card, and occasionally remarking upon her name when they happened to spot her by-line, Naomi had largely lost touch with her. Naomi vaguely recalled that Jamie had moved away; she had turned to filmmaking as a way of reaching broader swathes of the public, and so far as Naomi could remember Jamie now lived in London or wherever it was they produced such things. Pinsent had certainly never been big enough to contain the likes of Jamie Dale, anyway.
Excerpted from Night Vision by Jane A. Adams. Copyright © 2012 Jane A. Adams. Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.