After you’ve gone…

Today I’m sharing an extract from my novel ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov‘. Rosa’s cousin Tyche has come to Easthope a year after Rosa’s death. Rosa’s husband Luka has invited her for dinner:

Tyche looked round as they went into the light airy hall and then the lounge, and gave a shiver as if she too was nervous. French windows led into a large glazed conservatory where four people sat on comfortable padded cane furniture. Tyche hadn’t expected an interview panel.
“Tyche, this is my good friend Brian Makepeace, we’ve been pals forever, same nursery, same school, same band, same Uni.”
Brian stood up to shake hands. He was a huge man with a round pale face, pocked and marked, scarred from teenage acne. He was dressed in black and standing seemed to dominate the room with his unsmiling presence.
“Hi Brian,” said Tyche pulling her hand from his enormous paw. He said nothing, his great wan face as blank and distant as the moon, his eyes small and expressionless.
“And this is Brian’s wife Estelle.”
“Hello, Tyche,” Estelle smiled shyly, friendly and welcoming. Her eyes, although wide with surprise, were warm. She looked insubstantial, somehow, a little timid creature beside her big husband.
“And this is Rosa’s best friend, Melanie, and Mel’s cousin Garth.”
So, Luka’s closest friend and Rosa’s closest friend. It was clear that they were as shocked and amazed at her appearance as Luka had been.
“This sounds very rude, but it’s spooky how like Rosa you are,” said Estelle and then giggled as if she had embarrassed herself.
Tyche laughed too “So I’ve been told,” and she thought she could like Estelle for her openness and lack of guile.
“Well, will it make you feel better if I tell you the resemblance is only superficial?” said Melanie and they all laughed but Tyche wasn’t sure whether there was some barb behind Melanie’s words, and if so whether it was aimed at her or Rosa.
Melanie was wearing a short tight black dress, and was beautifully made-up. Estelle was wearing a taupe linen dress and jacket, a little too light for her fair complexion. Tyche was wearing tight jeans and a scarlet low-cut T beneath a sleeveless fringed suede jacket. Was she too casually dressed?
“So how are you related to Rosa? I never heard her mention you, nor Luka, have you, Luka?” asked Melanie. She was smiling but it seemed forced.
“Oh distantly,” Tyche replied “Our grandparents were cousins.”

As the evening progresses, Tyche begins to find out more about these people; it seems that Luka and Melanie, the widower and best friend are now an item, that Estelle is a kind and true friend to Luka, and her husband, Brian – always called Rudi, is an enigmatic and maybe sinister man, but protective towards the bereaved Luka. After dinner, Luka puts on an album he and Rudi made when they were in a band together while still at school. The band was called Swank.

As if on cue, Swank started “After you’ve gone, and left me crying, after you’ve gone…”
Luka switched it off and there was an empty silence.
“I miss her like hell,” he said and left the room.
“Poor Luka,” said Melanie “She was my friend, my best friend.”
Rudi flicked Tyche a look but what he meant to convey she wasn’t quite sure.
“But she changed, after the bank raid,” Melanie went on.
“Of course she did!” exclaimed Estelle hotly, as if she was annoyed with Melanie. “It was ghastly! Everyone said how brave and noble she was; they just think of the bravery not how nearly she was killed!”
“If Chambers had pulled the trigger – “
“No, I mean the marksman. If that policeman had been the tiniest bit off target, he would have blown her head off. She thought he was going to shoot her, I think for a second she thought that he had!”
How perceptive, thought Tyche, and looked at Estelle with respect. Luka was standing in the doorway, listening.
“Rubbish,” said Rudi, as if for Luka’s benefit.
“It’s not rubbish, Brian,” his wife responded.
“She said that to me once,” Luka spoke unexpectedly “She said she thought she’d died and when she found she was alive she couldn’t cope with it.” He was hurt, it was plain to see. “I still don’t know why she did it, it wrecked our life,” he spoke bitterly. “If she hadn’t done it she’d be alive now.”
“Oh Luka, you can’t believe that,” scolded Melanie.
“I’m just saying this. If the first thing hadn’t happened, she wouldn’t have got on that train and she wouldn’t have been killed!” Luka looked round as if expecting to be contradicted then left the room again, pulling the door behind him.

If you want to fin out how Tyche gets to know these people, and who was Rosa Czekov’s stalker, then here is a link to my book:

Rosa Czekov is an ordinary person who, through an extraordinary act of courage, brings herself to public attention. Rosa is modest and private, and this unwelcome publicity attracts a stalker who makes her life a misery and brings her to the verge of a breakdown. 
Her cousin, Tyche Kane, has a mission to discover who is tormenting Rosa and bring him or her to retribution. In the course of her pursuit, Tyche uncovers many secrets in an effort to prove Rosa was not just imagining her persecutor.However, her quest not only puts her own life at risk, but endangers Rosa’s friends and family and leads to the murder of someone very close to her.

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