You Are Dead

By: Peter James

1


Thursday 11 December


Logan was driving fast in the pelting rain, hurrying home, glad that her shitty day which had gone from bad to worse, and then progressively worse still, was nearly at an end. She was looking forward to a large glass of chilled white wine and a sneaky cigarette on the balcony before Jamie got home. The familiar Radio Sussex jingle played, then the female presenter announced it was 5.30 p.m. and time for the news headlines. As Logan listened, with half an ear, she was blissfully unaware that by this time tomorrow evening she would be the lead item on the local news, and the subject of one of the biggest manhunts ever launched by Sussex Police.

Her catalogue of disasters had started as she had got out of bed, late for work, with a splitting headache after a tiresome dinner with clumsy, untidy Jamie and tripped over a boot he’d left on the carpet. She’d stumbled forward, gashing her big toe open on the edge of the bathroom door. She should have gone to hospital, but she couldn’t spare the time for the inevitable wait at A&E, so she’d bandaged it herself and hoped for the best.

Then to add insult to injury she had been flashed by the same damned speed camera she had driven past every working day for the past few years, at a careful 32 mph. Somehow, today, in her rush to get to work for her first appointment she had totally forgotten it was there, and had gone past it at well over 45 mph.

The gilding on the lily came when one of her partners in the chiropractic clinic – the woman who brought in the largest share of their income – announced she was pregnant with triplets, and intended if all went well to be a full-time mum. Without her income stream, the future of the place could be in doubt.

Overshadowing all of that were her concerns about Jamie. He stubbornly refused to accept anything was wrong. But there was; there was so much wrong. His untidiness, which at first had amused her, had grown to irritate her beyond belief – especially when he’d told her crassly that it was a woman’s role to keep the home tidy.

So she had tidied up. She’d scooped up all the clothes that he had left lying on the floor, and his beer cans and dirty beer glasses – left after a bunch of his friends had come round to watch the footy – and dumped them down the rubbish chute in the corridor of their flat.

She was grinning in satisfaction at the memory as she indicated right, braked, then halted her car at the entrance to the underground car park beneath their apartment block in Brighton’s Kemp Town. She pressed the clicker to open the electric gates.

Then, as she drove down the ramp, she was startled by a figure lurking in the darkness. She stamped her foot hard on the brake pedal.





2


Thursday 11 December


Within seconds of answering the phone to his fiancée, Jamie Ball sensed something was wrong.

The connection was bad as he drove his battered old VW Golf down the M23 towards Brighton in the heavy rush-hour traffic and pelting rain, and it was hard to hear what she was saying; but even through the crackly line, he could hear the unease in her voice.

‘Are you OK, darling?’ he asked.

‘No,’ she said. ‘No, I’m not.’

‘What is it?’

‘There’s a man down here in the car park. I just saw him. He tried to hide as I drove in.’

Neither of them liked that underground car park beneath their apartment block. Their small ninth-floor flat, close to Brighton’s Royal Sussex County Hospital in Kemp Town, had views to die for, across the rooftops and far out into the English Channel, but the car park always gave them the creeps.

It was poorly lit with many totally dark areas, and there was only minimal security. Several vehicles lay beneath dust sheets and never appeared to be moved. Sometimes, when he drove down there, Jamie felt he was entering a mausoleum. If Logan arrived home on her own late at night, she preferred to park on the street and risk a ticket in the morning rather than go down there in the dark.

He had repeatedly warned Logan to make sure the electronic gates had closed behind her before driving on down the ramp. Now the scenario he had always feared seemed to be happening.

‘OK, darling,’ he said. ‘Listen to me. Lock your doors, turn around, and drive straight back out.’

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