The Dangerous Kind by Deborah O’Connor
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Perfect for fans of Anatomy of A Scandal, He Said/She Said, and Belinda Bauer, The Dangerous Kind is at once a gripping thriller and a stunning portrayal of the monsters that live among us.
One in 100 of us is a ‘potentially dangerous person’ – someone likely to commit a violent crime. We all know them: these charmers, liars and manipulators. The ones who send prickles up the back of our neck. These people hide in plain sight, they can be teachers, doctors, holding positions of trust, of power.
Jessamine Gooch makes a living tracking the 1 in 100. Each week she broadcasts a radio show that examines brutal offences, asking if more could have been done to identify and prevent their perpetrators.
But when she agrees to investigate a missing person case involving a young mother, she is drawn into a web of danger that will ultimately lead to the upper echelons of power, and threaten the safety of her own family.
What if the people we trust are the ones we should fear?
I follow him across the garden and out through a gate in the wall. Away from the manor house it is dark, the night sky bloated with snow that has yet to make itself known.
We keep walking, and before long we reach the foot of a muddy hill.
He tackles the incline at speed. I do the same. The hill is steep, and by the time we reach the top we’re both panting. Ahead, a perimeter of ragged orange netting, held taut by iron posts, rings a copse. He lift s a damaged section of the netting into the air.
‘The broadband in this part of the country is rubbish.’ He nods towards the trees. ‘They’ve been digging. New cables.’
I duck underneath and he joins me on the other side. The edge of the copse is overgrown with weeds and brambles. Thorns catch on my coat as we push our way into a small clearing.
‘That’s better.’ He breathes in the cold air. ‘I can think out here.’
The moon is full but the canopied criss-cross of branches means that large patches of the clearing are in shadow. I head for the carcass of a felled tree, covered with moss: the brightest available spot. I’ve been waiting thirteen years for this moment. I want to be sure to see the look on his face.
I don’t notice the hole.
My ankle twists on the precipice. Unable to take my weight, the cliff ledge collapses beneath me and clods of earth crash into the puddles below. I scramble, trying to right myself, but the crumbling soil continues to give way. I am about to topple forwards, into the hole, when I feel his hand clamp my arm.
‘Watch it.’ He yanks me back to safety. ‘That’ll be the digging I warned you about.’
My legs are rickety. I stagger over to the mossy tree trunk and sit down, my breaths short and shallow. My bicep stings. I had forgotten about his hands. His grip. Strong enough to bruise.
He inspects the hole. ‘This must be one of the sites they have yet to fill in.’
I wait until I’ve stopped shaking, then join him at the edge. This time I make sure to keep well back.
The hole is the diameter of a child’s paddling pool and twenty feet deep, the bottom spotted with puddles. The walls are a sheer vertical drop, sliced clean where the machinery has dug down to the layers below, their surface punctuated by white knuckles, tree roots that have pushed out through the mud into thin air.
Now that my eyes have adjusted to the dark I see mounds of dirt lined up on the opposite side of the hole and that a trail of abandoned tools – spades, buckled plastic buckets and odd bits of metal – litters the ground all the way back to the edge of the copse.
‘Come on, then. Out with it.’ He steps forward into a square of moon-light. ‘Why are you here?’
I look at him, standing there in his suit and tie. His brogues are ruined, the tiny holes and scalloped edges clogged with mud. He’s in his late fifties, his features slacker than they once were, but overall he’s aged well.
He’d always dressed smartly: chinos and polo shirts, jeans with a crease pressed down the middle of each leg. But this suit looks expensive. Something about the cut and line of the shoulders, the way the material hangs flush against his shirt.
‘Because it was wrong.’ I try to sound braver than I feel. ‘What you did.
What you tried to do.’
He won’t look at me. Instead he looks slightly to the left of my head, at the trees behind. ‘Is it money? Is that what you want?’
I’d imagined this moment so often. How it would feel to see him again.
Would I be angry? Scared? Now I’m here I feel something I had never anticipated. Disappointment.
‘I told you what happened that night. You promised to help. You lied.’
He scoffs and waves his hand in the air. Filled with a new sense of purpose, he starts to pace up and down, as though he’s dictating a letter and I’m his secretary, there to take notes.
‘I saw you as a favour but now I think it best if you leave.’
‘Times have changed. Back then, no one would listen. Now they’re all ears.’
The hole gapes blackly behind him. ‘I’m going to tell them everything.’
I pause. ‘So are the others.’
He stops pacing. ‘Others?’
‘You passed us round like we were nothing. I don’t care who you are now,’ I gesture back towards the manor house, ‘or who you’re going to be. It’s time you were brought to account.’
‘Whatever it is you think you’re talking about . . .’ he lapses into silence, reaching for some memory, but it won’t come, or he discards it ‘. . . you’re mistaken.’
There is no sound. The temperature has dropped. A sudden hoar.
‘Think about your family. That’s why I’m here. To give you a chance to talk to them before it breaks.’
This was true, but it was more than that. Watching the after effects on the news, him leaving a police station with his lawyer, harried and trying to cover his face with a newspaper, would not be enough. For my own sanity, I needed to be the one to confront him, to take back that bit of control.
He looks at his feet.
I relax a little. I’ve done what I came here to do. He reacted as I’d expected but now he seems to be taking me seriously. He is almost contrite.
He turns, and for the fi rst time since I got here he looks me in the eye.
I think he is going to apologise, to try and explain, but then he raises his hand and, whiplash fast, he slaps me.