Angela Clarke.

Trust Me






ANGELA CLARKE
Trust Me
The Social Media Murders


Copyright


Published by Avon

An imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd

The News Building

1 London Bridge Street

London SE1 9GF

www.harpercollins.co.uk

First published in Great Britain by HarperCollins 2017

Copyright Angela Clarke 2017

Angela Clarke asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

A catalogue copy of this book is available from the British Library.

This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the authors imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins.

Source ISBN: 9780008174644

Ebook Edition June 2017 ISBN: 9780008174651

Version: 2017-05-11

Praise for Angela Clarke

Written in the sharpest style, [Follow Me] races along, leaving the reader almost as breathless as the heroine but there is a verve to it that is impossible to resist Clarke is certainly someone to watch

Daily Mail

Watch Me is another zinging thriller in this social media crime series from Angela Clarke Smart, sassy and totally on point, following Nas and Freddies investigations is a must

Sarah Pinborough, author of Behind Her Eyes

Starts with heart-pounding intent, and then the excitement intensifies

Sharon Bolton, author of Daisy in Chains

Fast paced and full of excitement, its hard to know where each chapter will take you in this thoroughly unpredictable ride. It kept me gripped and I cannot wait for the third instalment to see what happens next

Katerina Diamond, bestselling author of The Teacher and The Secret

The clock is ticking in Angela Clarkes excellent new novel Watch Me.

Creepy, clever and unnerving; you wont ever want to log on again

C. L. Taylor, author of The Missing

I loved this! An utterly addictive, gripping thriller

Robert Bryndza, author of international number one bestseller The Girl in the Ice

Stylish, pacy and packs a bruising punch

Sarah Hilary, author of the DI Marnie Rome series

A sharp, punchy, fast-paced thriller, that will keep you hooked until the very last page

Casey Kelleher, author of Bad Blood

Fast, feminist and sharp as a knife. Just ripped through Watch Me by Angela Clarke and recommend you do the same. If you dare

Anna Mazzola, author of The Unseeing

Ingenious, fast-paced and full of dark wit. This is crime writing with attitude

Mark Edwards, bestselling author of Follow You Home

An utterly compelling, brilliantly plotted tale that expertly ramps up the tension and drags the reader in as the pages turn and the clock ticks down

Neil Broadfoot, author of All the Devils

A very contemporary nightmare, delivered with panache

Independent

Freddie is a magnificently monstrous character

Saturday Review , BBC Radio 4

Clarke has made an appealing flawed female lead wholl make immediate sense to readers who enjoyed Rachel in The Girl on the Train. An invigorating cat-and-mouse game, with a dark and filthy wit that deliciously spikes the regular drenchings of gore

Crime Scene Magazine

Slick and clever

Sun

Set in a London of East End hipsters, Tinder hook-ups, and internships, this tongue-in-cheek tale explores murder in the age of social media

Sunday Mirror

A chilling debut

Hello

Puts complex women and their stories front and centre

The Pool

Angela Clarke brings dazzling wit and a sharp sense of contemporary life to a fast-paced serial killer novel with serious style

Jane Casey, author of the Maeve Kerrigan series

In Follow Me, Clarke creates a completely compelling world, and a complex heroine. Freddie is refreshing and fascinating a credible addition to the crime canon and a great alternative for anyone who has grown frustrated with the male dominated world of the whodunnit. Follow Me is literally gripping the tension levels were forcing me to clutch the book so hard that my hands hurt!

Daisy Buchanan, Grazia

A fascinating murder mystery and a dark, ironic commentary on modern social media

Paul Finch, author of Stalkers

Clarke turns social media into a terrifyingly dark place. You wont look at your accounts the same way again. I was hooked and couldnt stop turning the pages. With a memorable and unique protagonist, Clarke explores the phenomenon of (social media) celebrity while tapping into your fears

Rebecca Bradley, author of Shallow Waters

Pacey, gripping, and so up-to-the-minute you better read it quick!

Claire McGowan, author of The Fall

Dedication

For Claire McGowan, with thanks.

(Will people think were at it now, like Bront? and Thackeray?)

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

T. S. Eliot

Table of Contents

Cover

Title Page

Copyright

Praise for Angela Clarke

Dedication

Epigraph

Amber

Kate

Freddie

Nasreen

Freddie

A

Kate

A

Freddie

Freddie

Nasreen

Kate

Nigel

Nasreen

Freddie

Nasreen

Kate

A

Kate

Nasreen

Nasreen

A

Nasreen

Paul

Freddie

Freddie

Kate

Nasreen

Freddie

Freddie

Amber

Kate

Nigel

A

Freddie

Freddie

Kate

Nasreen

Kate

Freddie

Nasreen

Nasreen

Freddie

Freddie

Kate

Nasreen

Freddie

Nasreen

Nasreen

Freddie

A

Freddie

A

Nasreen

Nasreen

A

Nasreen

Freddie

Nasreen

Kate

Nasreen

Freddie

Nasreen

Freddie

Nasreen

Nasreen

Freddie

Nasreen

Freddie

Nasreen

Freddie

Nasreen

Freddie

Nasreen

Freddie

Nasreen

Freddie

Nasreen

Freddie

Kate

Acknowledgements

Reading Group Questions

Q&A With Angela Clarke

About the Author

Also by Angela Clarke

About the Publisher

Amber

Hurriedly she opened her wardrobe, pulling her coat from the hanger and shoving it into her bag. She had minutes at most. Panic burnt through her body. Every fibre felt like it had been stripped raw. Tears welled up and over her eyelids, splashing onto the carpet. She tried not to snivel. There was still a chance to get away. She made it to the hallway before she remembered the photo. Her heart squeezed. She couldnt live without it. Not now. Running back into her bedroom, she reached for the frame on her bedside table.

A noise sounded behind her. A thud, and then the front door opening. She froze. Held her breath. Her hand outstretched. Shaking. Her heart hammering in her ears.

Too late.

New message:

Wanna go to a party?

Going to be bangin.

Trust me.

Kate

The table is shaking. Kate realises shes gripping it. She is shaking. The video on the computer screen is jerky. Handheld. Shot from a mobile. Live. Its a room: square and shabby. A single bulb hanging from the ceiling. Beer bottles and empty cans brimming over with cigarette ends colonise the space. She cant see any windows. But theres a closed door in the background. Is it locked? Two crude drawings an animal and a circle have been spray-painted in black onto the back wall. A stripped, stained duvet has been made into a hasty bed. Her brain cant wont process what shes seeing. Its like something blunt-edged is smashing into her, trying to gouge out the fear thats been buried under decades of safety, food, shelter and scatter cushions. But its there. Its coming. An innate force within her. She recognises danger. Fight or flight. She says the words over and over in her head, until she realises its a command: fight or flight! Kate doesnt move. She doesnt make a sound. She is watching it happen.

A voice on the video shouts: Like up the post! Get this to one thousand likes!

He sounds like one of the boys from her class. Young. Excitable. A child.

The girl on the screen turns to look at the camera. Her eyes focus in recognition. They look past the lens. Out. Realising. Pleading. Theyre looking straight at Kate. Fight or flight? The girl twists, tries to push herself up on her elbows. The man forces her down. His slim muscular back is turned toward the camera. Kate cant see his face.

No! The girl manages.

She said no.

The girls speech is slurred. Youre hurting me. Please. No.

Kate reaches toward her. Her fingers futilely prod the screen. Push her laptop. She is at home. In her house. Watching this. Where is this being filmed? Somebody must hear the girls shouts? Someone must stop this.

Comments from viewers float up over the feed:

Theyre so young lmao

She a slut!!

She said no. This is rape.

This is rape.

Just one more! the man shouts. Man? His skin is smooth, hairless, young. The girl jerks back. Claws at his face. Kicks her legs.

She said no.

He slaps the girl hard. The noise a loud crack. Shes flung sideways. Theres a scream. Is it the girl? Is it the man? Is it Kate? The girl scrabbles, swings up, punches him in the face. A fighter. Shes a fighter.

The camera judders. Lurches up. Hey? calls the voice from behind. Unsure. Young, shes convinced now.

Skank! The man roars, grabbing a bottle. A glass bottle. He smashes it down at the girl. Her face. Her hands. Frenzied. Slashing. Theres screaming. Blood. The camera convulses. The boys voice grows frantic. She cant make out what hes saying.

The man swipes toward the camera. Turn that off! She sees his blood-splattered face. And the video feed goes dead.

Kate pushes away from her dining table, away from the computer. She stumbles, grabs the doorframe. Vomits. Liquid smacks the vinyl kitchen floor. Again. Again. Shes shaking. Cold. Bile. Retching. Then she drags herself, shuddering, teeth chattering, to her phone. Pulls it down to her. Dials 999.

Hello, emergency service operator, which service do you require? Fire, police or ambulance? Its a woman; she sounds calm.

Kates voice bubbles from her throat, as if someone is speaking through her. She forces the words out. Police. Youve got to get to her. She said no. Someone needs to get there. Youve got to

Where are you calling from, maam? What is the nature of your emergency?

Kate blinks as if her own eyelids are heavy, weighted with blood.

Ive just seen a young woman raped stabbed. Theres a lot of blood. Please: youve got to help her!

Freddie

Oh my God. She shook her head. No way was she gonna move in with him. She was only twenty-four. Was he crazy? She had her whole life ahead of her.

I think youve got the wrong idea. Freddie swung her legs over the side of the bed.

What do you mean? he said.

Shed let him get too comfortable. Shed got too comfortable. This us, like its fun and stuff, but no. She thought of her parents wedding photo: her mum twenty-four years old in her lacy white dress. Each time her dad smashed the frame during a drunken rage, her mum just replaced it without mentioning it.

No? He sat up, the duvet falling off his naked body. What have the last few months been then? Youve stayed the last twelve nights and youre saying this is just what? A fling? His eyes were wide. Stung.

Shit. Shed let her guard down. She didnt want to be a jerk. You know Ive been sofa-surfing for months. She grabbed yesterdays knickers from the floor, turned them inside out. This has just been temporary, while I find new digs.

Youve been fucking me because its convenient?

It wasnt like it was all one-sided. Youve had perks too. He was thinking with his dick.

Thanks a fucking lot, Freddie! His cheeks burned red.

Anger she could deal with. She pulled her bag open. Wheres all my stuff?

I gave you a drawer. He pointed at the Ikea set under the telly and Xbox. His bottom lip shook.

You gave me a drawer? No one has ever made space for you before, Freddie. That must mean something.

Dont you like staying here? He reached to brush back the frizzy curtain of hair that had fallen over her face.

Yes. She couldnt breathe. She needed to get out of there. Its not that.

You dont like me then? He let his hand fall back against the blue duvet.

Course I like you. She dived at the drawer. Quicker would be better. Pulled it open, started scooping her stuff into her bag.

Then why dont you stay? He was up now, moving toward her. His arms wrapped round her as he kissed along her naked shoulder, her neck. She felt her body give under his touch, as one hand ran over her shoulder, circled her nipple. The air in the room was hot, foetid. August was gradually turning the heat up on London. Smothering them. She would hurt him. Hurt them both. Be strong, Freddie.

Im sorry, she said, pushing him away. I cant do this.

His arms dropped. He stepped backwards. She didnt look. This is for the best.

But His voice wavered. I think Im falling for you.

She froze.

I love you, Freddie, he said.

Freddie swept the last of her things into her bag and ran. She clattered out of the flat, pausing at the foot of the communal staircase to pull on her vest and shorts. Her heart was screaming at her to go back. Be strong. She heard him stumbling for his jeans, his keys, calling after her. She bolted out into the street; the sunlight wrapped itself around her in a stifling embrace. Happy bloody Monday.

Nasreen

Thanks to Freddie, weve got a new lead, DI Chips, too old-school to bother with new-fangled office politics, rested two meaty hands on Freddies shoulders and gave her a grandfatherly squeeze of pride. Nasreen doubted hed ever been this fond of an Intelligence Analyst before. In fact, she doubted hed ever spoken to one before.

Freddie had been recruited to the Gremlin cyber-crime team after consulting on some high-profile cases; she was internet savvy, analytical, unorthodox, outspoken, and Nasreens old school friend. And, despite Nasreens stellar fast-track performance at Hendon College, and her further three years of experience in the Met, it was Freddie who looked at home here. Chips was beaming at her. Tell us what youve got, lass?

Freddie hiked her ripped denim shorts up as she stood.

You couldve dressed for the occasion, DI Saunders straightened his own stiff white shirt cuffs. Not a hair out of place.

I have, Freddie replied. Its too bloody hot for anything else.

Nasreen envied Freddies carefree attitude, even if she didnt approve of it. The newspaper front pages blazed with the incoming heatwave, and shed had to dry the sweat patches on her own suit under the hand drier this morning.

Ive been looking at intelligence reports of activity we know is linked to the Spice Road website. Freddie handed round a series of reports filed by arresting officers across the force. The Spice Road was an Amazon-style website on the dark net where you could order anything at the click of a button. They could see the drugs, weapons, and sometimes people being sold and bought on the site, but couldnt see who they were coming from or going to. Each of those observed, questioned or charged for delivery of these drugs in these cases belong to the THM, Freddie said.

Tower Hamlets Massive, the Poplar gang? DC Greens freckled skin was flushed. Despite being the newest member of the team, shed clocked how big this was.

We didnt know that the THM gang were linked to Spice Road. Freddie sounded excited. Perhaps shed been working on this when shed blown Green and her partners barbecue off at the weekend? Nasreen had been left talking to their gawky accountant neighbour. She had the terrible feeling theyd hoped she would see him again.

The highest ranking THM member weve come across is a guy called Paul Robertson. Saunders put a photo of a white guy, shaven-headed and sunken-eyed, on the wall. Robertson served time for the manslaughter of Rhys Trap, a key member from rival gang the Dogberry Boys. An act we think was a test to prove his loyalty to those who run THM the brothers Rodriguez.

Nasreen knew all about the Rodriguez family. The brothers havent been seen in public for over five years.

We suspect theyre running the operation from Spain, Chips said.

Gotta love the Internet, Freddie said. You can work from anywhere.

We had a trace on Robertson until a year ago when he vanished, Chips said.

You think hes in Spain too? Nasreen asked.

No sightings and nothing flagged on any of the borders. Saunders still wasnt looking directly at her. Shed been deskbound for the last six months, and could guess she was about to get the worst job. Again.

Saunders took another sip from his morning protein shake. Robertson is wanted in connection with several drug-dealing cases and an armed robbery in Bracknell. The drugs squad had a trail on him when he disappeared.

Someone had a bad day in the office, said Chips. They all laughed.

The door opened and DCI Burgone entered. Nasreens laughter turned into a cough. She stared at the ground, though she wanted nothing more than to look into his blue eyes. Freddie, Chips and Green were still laughing, but she could feel Saunders watching her.

Sorry Im late. Burgones classic Queens English tone instantly restored order. As he was the governing officer, Freddie would have reported her discovery to Burgone before she spoke to Saunders. Carry on, Pete. Burgone took the nearest chair, the one next to her. His amber scent beckoned her closer.

Dont look. Act natural. Closing her eyes, Nasreen was back to that night: her hands in his thick dark hair, his hand cupping her chin, their lips meeting. She snapped her eyes open. It had been six months since shed had a one-night stand with her boss. Six months since the rest of the team found out. Six months since shed been lucky to hang on to her job.

Saunders cleared his throat. Paul Robertson is our best shot of getting to the Rodriguez brothers, and ultimately its them who are running the Spice Road. He paused to pull another photo from his file. Paul Robertson has a daughter, Amber Robertson, who disappeared at the same time as her father. A chill passed over Nasreen. Saunders added the photo of a young, dark-haired girl to the board. She was fifteen when they went to ground. Amber smiled up from under a fashionable floppy hat, her voluptuous curves played for maximum impact in a cropped khaki T-shirt and tight black jeans. Cases involving teen girls always got under Nasreens skin, and she felt the familiar tightness form in her stomach.

Pretty lass, Chips said.

We think shes the weakest link in the chain. Find her and we find her dad. Find him and we find the Rodriguez brothers. Saunders tapped the board. Chips and Green are tied up finishing off Operation Kestrel right now, so I want you on this one, Cudmore.

His words startled her. Me? She leant forward, too eager, caught the glass of water on the table in front of her. Her hand shot out to steady it. She felt the blush rising up her cheeks. Burgone was right there.

Unless youve got better things to be doing with your time, Sergeant? Saunders said.

No, sir. Thank you, sir. She prayed Burgone was looking at the board.

Green gave her a smile a congrats for being back in the game.

Get Freddie to help you with whatever she can get on Amber. I want her found. Saunders was gathering his papers together.

Wait, so theres a missing fifteen-year-old girl surely someones looking for her already? Freddie cut over the noise of scraping chairs.

Shes been on the Missing Persons list for a year, but theyre inundated. Saunders said. Theyve done the normal checks, but until now she wasnt high priority.

Freddie blew air through her teeth. Not high priority? But now we want to bang up her dad were interested?

Now Im interested, Saunders said.

I dont know how you sleep at night. Freddie stared at him.

Like a baby, ta. He was always pleased to get a response.

Nasreen knew how busy Missing Persons were, and with the connections Paul Robertson had, itd be all too easy for him and his daughter vanish. What about the girls mother?

Died when she was three, Saunders said. RTA.

Daughter of a dead mum and a drug-dealing dad, some kids get all the luck, dont they? Freddie grimaced.

Freddie, can I have a word in my office? Burgone had paused at the door.

Nasreen couldnt help but stare as Freddie left the room with him. What was that about?

Nasreen had to stop this fixation with Burgone. Superintendent Prue Lewiss disciplinary words played over in her mind: I forbid my officers to have relationships with their colleagues because it ruins their careers. Especially the women. People will always assume you got to where you are because of who you slept with, Nasreen. You will have to work twice as hard to prove them wrong now. Nasreen couldnt let her own mistakes stand in the way of doing the job she loved. She had to believe she was still of use. The tension in her stomach solidified into a hard, heavy millstone. The pretty fifteen-year-old Amber Robertson was Nasreens shot at redemption, if she could find her.





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