Rich Girl, Poor Girl – Extract

Rain was falling in sodden, misty sheets from a darkly tearful sky; all the light seemed to have been sucked out of it. It was eleven o’clock in the morning but the December day felt as though it was already creeping to a close. The young woman sitting in the back of the car shivered, wrapped her pashmina around her shoulders and pressed her nose against the glass. They swept past the British Library and the interminable building works along the Euston Road. The old arches were still there, she saw as they turned left and drove under the bridge. But not the old gasworks. Everything had been torn down to make way for the new terminus. St Pancras to Paris in a couple of hours. She winced involuntarily. Thinking about Paris brought on the usual sharp stab of pain. That was where she’d seen her last – where they’d all seen her last. But it was better not to think about that. Especially not now.

Her stomach was in knots by the time the driver pulled up outside a small, rather shabby building on Camley Street. Inner North London St Pancras Coroner’s Court, the building announced itself. By Appointment Only. She stared at the door. She’d never been to a coroner’s court before. Or to an inquest, for that matter. She’d been called to attend as ‘an interested party’, the lawyer told her over the phone. Not as a witness or a suspect, of course . . . it was simply routine, something that had to be done. Nothing for her to worry about – for any of them to worry about. She’d wanted desperately to believe him.

‘Shall I wait for you, miss?’ the driver asked, turning his head.

She nodded slowly. ‘Yes, please. I don’t know how long it’ll take. Will you park somewhere near? I’ll ring you when I’m finished.’

‘Very good, miss.’

She opened the door and stepped out, unfurling the umbrella. She looked up at the sign again. Behind her, the car pulled slowly away. She squared her shoulders, took a deep breath and walked up the steps. It just over six months since the terrible events of that night. She couldn’t believe the nightmare was about to begin again.


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