Home > You And Me, Always(10)

You And Me, Always(10)
Jill Mansell

It was yet another reason why she was so likely to vacuum under Dan’s bed and find the envelope he really didn’t want her to find.

That was the thing about Dan: he could be so thoughtful sometimes. Arranging a surprise like that for Patsy was the kind of gesture so many men wouldn’t bother to think of. Realising that she couldn’t give up, Lily took the keys out of her shorts pocket and unlocked the passenger door of the transit van. She removed a small leather pouch from the glove compartment, jumped back down and hurried across the street. The sooner the envelope had been retrieved, the sooner she could relax and forget about it.

Banner Lane, leading off the high street, was narrow and curved round to the left. Each of the cottages was set back, with long paths separating them from their front gates, and the trees and shrubs in the gardens afforded the properties complete privacy.

Not that the neighbours were likely to call the police if any of them happened to see her breaking into Patsy’s home, but it was still easier without an audience.

Also, did it technically count as breaking in when you weren’t actually breaking anything?

At the front door, Lily unzipped the narrow leather pouch and selected two of the steel picks for the task in hand. Lock-picking was a skill Nick had taught her as a teenager; when you worked in a reclamation yard, it came in useful. Closed chests, drawers, boxes and desks regularly turned up minus their keys and needed opening. It was a handy trick, learned from months of practice at the kitchen table with an assortment of old locks. If you didn’t have professional equipment, you could open standard locks with a thin strip of metal cut from a drinks can, and an unbent paperclip.

Leaning in close, Lily slid the first pick into the lock on the front door. She listened to the tiny clicking noises it made as it scratched at the inner walls.

OK, this wasn’t the most basic lock on the market, but with a bit more work, she’d still be able to release it. She gave the door a push with the flat of her left hand, then gripped the edge of the lock face and pulled it back towards her before choosing another pick and trying again. For a moment she felt the oddest sensation, as if she were being watched, and she had to turn and check that no one was standing on the path behind her.

But it was just her overactive imagination; there wasn’t anyone there.

It took another thirty seconds, then Lily heard the final click she’d been waiting for. Bingo. The lock retracted, she pushed the door open and …

It closed in her face.

What?

She stared at the door. It hadn’t swung shut. Someone had pushed it.

From the inside.

She blinked. It definitely wasn’t Patsy. And it couldn’t be Dan. Could it? No, there was no way even Dan would have been able to jump out of his plane and race all the way back here to play a stupid trick on her.

Unnerved, Lily said, ‘Who’s in there?’

No reply. She hammered on the door and called out, ‘What’s going on?’

Nothing.

Just to be on the safe side, in case Dan had only been pretending to be flying today, she raised her voice and said, ‘Dan, is that you?’

Silence.

OK, this was ridiculous; was there actually someone inside or had she just imagined it? Had a window been left open at the back of the house, causing a gust of wind to make the front door feel as if it were being pushed shut by an invisible hand?

Because if she called the police and they came over and the place turned out to be empty, she’d look like a complete lemon.

The more she thought about it, the more likely it seemed that it had been the wind. Still clutching the picks, she fed the second one into the keyhole in order to begin the process again.

‘Get away from the door,’ warned a low male voice from inside, ‘or I’m calling the police.’

What? What? Leaping back as if she’d been electrocuted, Lily stared ahead in disbelief.

‘I mean it. I’ll do it if you don’t get away from this house.’

‘Hang on a minute,’ said Lily, fuelled with sudden outrage. ‘You’re calling the police? What are you even talking about? I’m the one who’s going to call the police!’

‘OK, calm down. Don’t call them.’ There was a pause, then the voice said, ‘Who are you?’

God, he had a colossal nerve. ‘Never mind me, who are you?’

‘I’m staying here. I’m Patsy’s guest.’

‘Well that’s a complete lie for a start, because I saw her just now and she’d have told me.’ Moving further away from the door – because he didn’t sound dangerous, but you never knew – Lily pulled out her phone. ‘Right, I’m calling nine nine nine.’

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