The Killings at Badger's Drift

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Authors: Caroline Graham
Tags: Fiction, General, Mystery & Detective, Crime
if the door had been transparent. After a minute or two the slippered footsteps moved away. She breathed out, a long sated exhalation. She must let him in next time. It had been simply ages. And he’d been very good, considering. But God - what a contrast it would be . . .
    She’d been born Barbara Wheeler in Uxbridge ‘some time in the late fifties’, she told people with coy deceit. Her father was a ganger on the railway, her mother a household drudge. They had five other children. Only Barbara was beautiful. They were packed into a terraced house flush to the pavement, with a concrete back yard. She shared a bedroom with two sisters, now household drudges themselves, defending her space and belongings with tigerish possessiveness. She had scorned their cheap clothes and cosmetics, holding her nose when they sprayed on their Californian Poppy from Woolworth’s. She started stealing at fifteen - creams, perfumes and lotions, peeling off the price labels, knowing that no one at home would ever have heard of the brands.
    After her sisters had been consumed into the local sweet factory she got a job as a filing clerk in a solicitor’s office and, it seemed to her, a precarious toehold on the slippery slope that would lead her out of a slummish and ugly environment into the glossy perfection of middle-class life. A world where you didn’t have to go to a park filled with screaming kids and snapping dogs to enjoy grass and trees but had them actually belonging to you, in your own garden. Where people washed their clothes before they looked dirty and men shook hands when they met whilst women brushed powdered cheek against powdered cheek in easy, meaningless display.
    Barbara was not especially intelligent but she was shrewd and worked hard and quietly, keeping her mouth shut and her eyes alert. She started to take clothes from one of the larger department stores in Slough - choosing, as nearly as she could, styles resembling those worn by the elder partner’s young married daughter. This stage of affairs continued until she was almost eighteen. She was still a virgin, partially because she’d never met anyone she fancied enough but mostly because she had some vague extravagant idea that to be able to offer virginity to a serious suitor might cancel out the debit of her shabby beginnings. She never mentioned them of course, but was constantly nervous in case the easy, upper-class patronage that she encountered in the office would somehow flush them to the surface.
    Alan Cater, newly articled to the firm, started work there on her eighteenth birthday. He was tall, fair, had sharp blue eyes and smoked slim brown cigars. He had a red Cobra sports car and a watch that was the slimmest wafer of gold. He smiled a lot, especially at Barbara. He touched her too, only casually, nothing you could take offence at: a hand on her shoulder, an arm around her waist at the filing cabinet. She was rather shocked at the surge of pleasurable excitement she felt when he did this but said nothing, not realizing that her quickened breath and flushed skin gave her away.
    One evening in midsummer he was late leaving the office. He was playing tennis straight from work and had gone into the cloakroom to change. Barbara never left before he did. She had graduated to dicta-typing, taking lessons in the evening, and was covering her machine when he came out in brief shorts and a white Aertex shirt. Everyone else had gone. He had stood looking at her for a long moment, first at her face, then everywhere else. Then he locked the door and told her he had been longing for this moment. Barbara had felt sick with excitement. He stood very close to her, said, ‘Shall I show you what you do to me?’ and guided her hand. As he opened her blouse, in the moments before she was completely swept away, Barbara saw them framed in the doorway of an old country church, herself in white of course, Alan in morning suit. There would be champagne afterwards and a

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