Free Poppet by Mo Hayder

Book: Poppet by Mo Hayder Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mo Hayder
again and looks at him. ‘AJ?’
    ‘I’m sorry about the professional-bitch demeanour this morning.’
    ‘That’s OK. You’ve got a job to do.’
    She gives a small, tearful laugh. ‘Sometimes it’s the only way I know how to be.’
    ‘Like I said, it’s OK. It’s fine.’
    There’s a short pause. He wonders where this is going. Then she says, ‘We’ve known each other a long time. Tell me honestly. This delusion they have – the you-know-what.’
    ‘The Mau—’
    ‘Please don’t say it.’ She looks at him with a watery smile. ‘Sorry – it’s just, I … AJ – you’ve never seen anything, have you? Something you couldn’t explain.’
    He gives a scoffing laugh. ‘Oh, all the time. People walking through walls.’
    ‘Seriously. What is it about this delusion?’
    ‘That depends,’ he says, ‘on whether I’m Scully and you’re Mulder.’
    ‘I’m definitely Scully.’
    ‘No – you can’t be. ’Cos I’m Scully.’
    ‘Then it’ll have to be two cynics. Two cynics in a Beetle. They should make a film about us.’
    They both give a half-hearted laugh. AJ sits back and stares out of the windscreen to where a drunk woman is picking a fight with an equally drunk man in camouflage trousers. There’s a long silence, then he says: ‘You’ve got to admit, she was a bloody nuisance.’
    ‘No, no – AJ, you can’t say that. Every person on the unit has a right to our care. We shouldn’t let anyone down.’
    ‘But she was a nuisance. I know it’s taboo to say it, but out of all the people it could have happened to, aren’t you glad it happened to Zelda? I certainly am.’
    There’s a pause. Melanie keeps her eyes on the two drunks. Her mouth is moving slightly – as if she’s suppressing a slight smile. ‘We never had this conversation,’ she says, not meeting his eyes. ‘I never heard you say that and you never saw me nod. OK?’
    ‘What conversation?’
    ‘And last but not least, you never saw …’
    She tilts her chin over her shoulder at the vodka bag on the back seat. ‘You never saw what was in that carrier bag either.’

The End
    SUKI’S BREATHING SLOWS . The rapid in and out – the frantic panting of the last few hours – deflates into something slow and thoughtful. A measured surrender. To Penny this is the first sign that the end really is coming. It’s going to be soon.
    She looks at her watch. Five o’clock. Evening. So it will be evening when Suki goes. It can’t be much longer. She hitches up the duvet which makes a tent over her and Suki – here on the floor in the office where Suki lies curled on the tatty old bed that she has had for fifteen years – ever since she was a tiny puppy. Penny has been here all last night and today. She’s not tired, not sleepy. Not at all.
    ‘Don’t be scared, Suki.’ She strokes her face. ‘Don’t be scared. I promise there’s nothing to be scared of.’
    Suki takes another breath. Almost pensive. She lets it out. Penny rests her hand on Suki’s ribcage – very lightly, because the skeleton is so tiny, so feeble. It seems a ridiculous insult to expect it to rise one more time. This little old dog – small and shrunken as a walnut. Even as a youngster Suki was tiny. Not a proper breeder’s dog – she was a rescue puppy, a cute hairy-faced mutt. All her life no one has ever noticed or paid attention to Suki – not the way they’d whoop and ooh over the glamorous red setters and Weimaraners. Of course, Suki has never minded. She’s always been content to trot along next to Penny, quite happy with the world and the way it was. No one is really going to notice when she’s gone. Only Penny.
    Another breath comes. A slow release. Penny watches the ribcage – expecting another.
    She waits, and she waits.
    No response.
    ‘Suki? Is that it?’
    Her chest doesn’t move. Penny presses her hands into it, her fingertips gently searching between the ribs for

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