I am pleased to host an extract from Mari Hannah's new book The Scandal as part of The Scandal blog tour.
Some fear is real, some imagined. Nancy fled the building, flinching as the door swung shut behind her with a solid thump. The feeling that she was under surveillance – even as she drove through the staff car park – was like a knife plunged deep into her back. She’d left her resignation on her desk with little explanation. Circumstances beyond her control wouldn’t cut it. Not a hope in hell. She’d been too vocal for her own good. Too vociferous in her defence of the defenceless. Hers was a just cause, one that had put her in danger more than once. This was not and never had been about her welfare.
In one way, the assault had clarified matters, a backhander so violent it had thrown her clear across the room, clattering across the floor, propelling her into a solid wooden chest. No witnesses; they were too clever for that. That slap, delivered with such venom, was counterproductive. A signal – if one were needed – that she couldn’t change things from the inside. There was no other way . . .
She had to go.
It had taken months to make the decision. Using what she knew had ramifications. It would blow the lid off a situation that was out of control. To do it right meant meticulous planning, evidence collection and recording: photographic as well as the notes she’d scribbled frantically in her journal: names, dates and times. In the meantime, she’d sold up without telling a soul, moving to a place where no one knew her in order to distance herself from those seeking to silence her. Handing in her notice with immediate effect was only the beginning.
She’d have to be careful now.
As she drove teary-eyed from the estate, the faces of those she cared for scrolled before her eyes like movie credits: Bill, Edna, Molly, George and countless others who’d gone before. Unloved in a lot of cases. The forgotten ones, she called them: isolated, indecisive, plain weak. When they found out that she’d gone without saying goodbye, they’d feel abandoned.
Telling them was out of the question. Taking them into her confidence was never an option. A slip of the tongue would tip off the very people Nancy was anxious to expose, leaving those under her care and protection vulnerable – or worse, robbing her of the ability to blow the whistle.
Her colleagues didn’t want to know. One by one, they had turned away, preserving their jobs, maintaining the status quo. Who could blame them? For years, they had been operating in a culture of fear. She wondered if they had been paid for their silence. Blood money.
How could they?
Nancy did blame them. Gutless, every one of them.
A single drop of warm liquid fell from her eye, dribbled down her cheek, hot and salty as it crept into her mouth. There would be no tears from the victims. Some had passed away already, unable to cry or complain. The rest would have forgotten her by morning. And yet she could hear them weeping, baffled by a sudden and inexplicable change in circumstances, waiting, wondering if she was ever coming back. That gut-wrenching thought was more than Nancy could bear.
If only it were possible to consign her own observations to oblivion. It wasn’t. She felt guilty then. There was nothing worse than memory loss, but right now she’d give anything to be able to wipe her own hard drive. A despicable thought. Cowardly. It lingered in the back of her mind as she passed through the iron gates and out on to the open road, the decision to go gnawing at her conscience. She worried that her actions would leave those she might never see again caught in a trap with no way out. At least not in the short-term . . .
Tears stung her eyes:
The short-term was all they had left.
What Nancy did next would determine their fate and that of countless others; it was a responsibility that she alone seemed prepared to shoulder. Yet these were no isolated cases. There had been many prosecutions over the years, the accused lifted by police and put before a court of law, some sent to jail. And still it went on. Her actions weren’t an exercise in conscience cleansing. At every turn, she’d spoken up. On each occasion, she’d been told to shut the fuck up or fact the consequences . . . And the consequence had just rounded the bend in her rear-view mirror.
He’d found the letter sooner than she’d anticipated. She imagined him skulking around her office, opening drawers, his dirty fingers all over her stuff. Curious to know what was inside an envelope addressed to her boss, he’d have broken his neck to get over there, a sneer developing as he was sent after her . . . Nancy didn’t want to think what his instructions had been.
‘Deal with it!’ most probably.
And deal with it he would.
The Scandal by Mari Hannah (Published by Orion) on 7 March 2019
When an young man is found stabbed to death in a side street in Newcastle city centre in the run up to Christmas, it looks like a botched robbery to DCI David Stone. But when DS Frankie Oliver arrives at the crime scene, she gets more than she bargained for. She IDs the victim as Herald court reporter, thirty-two-year old Chris Adams she's known since they were kids. With no eyewitnesses, the MIT are stumped. They discover that when Adams went out, never to return, he was working on a scoop that would make his name. But what was the story he was investigating? And who was trying to cover it up? As detectives battle to solve the case, they uncover a link to a missing woman that turns the investigation on its head. The expos has put more than Adams' life in danger. And it's not over yet.