“Don’t scream!” the man in the blue overalls held up his hands. They were filthy, Corinne could see from across the room. She froze. She was still holding her keys. She tightened her grip. If he comes any closer…
The man hadn’t noticed. He was looking around, frowning at her furnishings, his eyes wide and confused.
“This is Number 43, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” said Corinne. “What do you want?”
“The people who live here – where are they?”
“I live here, mate,” said Corinne. She was backing towards the door, preparing to fling herself through it and out into the street. “You’ve made a mistake.”
Something came back to her, something from the car radio on the way home. Something about an escaped murderer who was dangerous and not to be approached.
“I’d like you to leave now,” she said, keeping her voice as even as she could manage.
The man didn’t appear to be listening.
“I don’t understand…” he wiped mud across his anguished face. “How long have you lived here?”
“Ooh, must be…” Corinne calculated, “five years. Must be.”
“Five years…” This was clearly a blow to the man with the dirty hands. He shook his head. “Angie and the kids. Little Sophie! You don’t know where they went, by any chance?”
“I’m sorry.” Corinne unlatched the front door.
“It was a party,” the man said, “Things got out of hand. I didn’t mean to upset them. But – but – it all came out. She’d been seeing him behind my back. And, well, there he was behind my back again. Never saw him coming. I’ve made a terrible mess of your garden, I’m afraid, but at least I managed to claw my way out at last, eh?”
Corinne was horrified. This wasn’t the escaped killer off the radio. This was – this was something much, much worse.
She didn’t see the man in prison uniform come up behind her. She didn’t see the hand-made shiv until it had sliced open her throat. She landed face down on her carpet and the last thing she heard was the sound of her front door slamming behind her.
“Hello, Tony,” said the escaped convict. “Fancy seeing you here. If you’ve done something to Angie I’ll kill you again.”