‘You remember Sam,’ Kanal said. The brutish man stepped out of the shadows, and Sergio, in a cold panic, ran. He ran into the restaurant, pushing through the crowd on the patio, past the security guards. They were too busy chatting to pretty girls to stop him.
Holly could still hear the noise of the party when she got home, which concerned her. How would she soothe a baby woken by music and loud voices?
Aidan had left the living room in a mess, and with a sigh, she started to tidy. She worried that when the time came, she would be looking after Aidan and the baby.
But, under a cushion, and one of Aidan’s jumpers, she found a couple of books and a notepad. One of the books was a parenting guide, the other a guide to pregnancy and birth. The notepad had a list of things to do. Pack hospital bag, Aidan had written. Make birth playlist. Make sure Holly has everything she needs.
Holly sat down, holding the notepad in her hands, and smiled.
Sergio stood in a dark corner, watching the door. Kanal and Sam were talking to the security guards as if they knew each other. Sergio saw a handshake, a pat on the back, and then the guards let them in.
He fled across the dancefloor, out to the garden terrace. The air outside was cool, and he was able, for a moment, to catch his breath. Then a meaty hand landed on his shoulder and spun him around. Kanal grinned, and Sam threw a punch, hitting Sergio hard under the ribs.
He stumbled off the terrace, into 8 Pechey Terrace’s back garden. The party had spilled out onto the grass and, amongst the dancing and the shouting, no one noticed the fight—until one of Sam’s punches knocked Sergio into a group of girls, and their angry cries summoned security guards.
These guards didn’t know Kanal and Sam, and were happy to open the gate that led from the garden to the lane and bundle them through it. ‘You too,’ on of them growled, grabbing Sergio.
‘No,’ Sergio cried. ‘Don’t throw me out…’
‘What’s going on?’ It was Robbie, stepping off the terrace, where he’d been minding the grill, onto the grass.
‘Fight,’ one of the guards told him.
‘Tell them who I am, Robbie,’ Sergio pleaded. ‘Tell them not to throw me out.’
Robbie shook his head. ‘You’re not welcome, Serg,’ he said. He nodded at the security guards, and they dragged Sergio, struggling, to the gate.
‘The reason Andy isn’t returning your calls,’ Erin said, ‘is because I told him the truth.’ She looked at Colin. Did he know what she was about to say?
‘The truth about what?’ Jen looked worried.
They were talking in the cramped corridor that led to Mateo’s office, and Erin was aware they might be disturbed at any moment. ‘The truth about the twins,’ she said. ‘About who their father is.’ She saw a look of panic cross Colin’s face.
Jen saw it too. ‘Who’s their father?’
He laughed, a big, fake, protest-too-much laugh. ‘No, I’m not.’
‘But…’ Jen moaned. ‘How?’
‘He can tell you how,’ Erin said. ‘Can’t you, Colin?’
Colin laughed again. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
Jen looked from Colin to Erin, and from Erin to Colin. Erin could see that she knew who was telling the truth. ‘Get out of my way,’ she said, pushing past Erin. ‘Get out of my way.’ She ran for the door.
Colin went after her. ‘Wait,’ he shouted. ‘Jen, wait!’
In the lane, Sam punched Sergio, again and again, until the noise of the scuffle brought one of the security guards to the gate, peering into the lane. ‘Get out of here,’ he shouted. ‘Before I call the police.’
Sam looked at Kanal. ‘I can’t get arrested again,’ he said. Kanal nodded, letting him go. He rushed off down the lane.
Sergio lent against the wall, breathing hard. He’s done his worst, he thought, as Kanal smiled at him.
And then he saw the knife.
‘Goodnight,’ the security guard said, as Erin left the restaurant. She smiled. It hadn’t felt good, telling Colin and Jen, but it had felt right. She strolled the few steps from the restaurant to 8 Pechey Terrace’s front door, feeling ready for bed, with no need for wine to calm her worries.
Kanal had just slammed the knife into Sergio’s belly when the security guard came to the gate for another look, giving Sergio the chance to stagger out of the lane.
He tried to get into the restaurant, but there were too many people on the patio. ‘I need help,’ he whimpered, but either no one heard or no one cared.
8 Pechey Terrace’s front door had a soft-close mechanism, to stop it from slamming, and when coming home at night Erin would wait, before heading into her flat, to hear the click of the lock engaging.
She heard, instead, the door open again. She looked down, into the gloom of the stair—the lights were out—and recognised Sergio. He looked wasted, she thought, like the rehab stay she’d heard about hadn’t helped.
Another man came in after Sergio, someone she didn’t recognise. A drug deal, she thought. She let herself into the flat and locked the door behind her.
Kanal was right behind Sergio as he fled past the stairs to the back door and out into the garden. He saw Angel among those partying on the grass. ‘Angel,’ he cried, ‘help me.’
She looked at him, frowning. ‘Oh dear,’ Kanal said, from behind him. ‘Had a bit too much to drink, eh, Sergio?’ He put an arm around him. ‘Don’t worry yourself,’ he told Angel, ‘I’m going to see him home.’ He steered Sergio back the way they’d come.
Once they were in the stair, out of sight of the party, he threw him to the floor. Sergio curled into a ball, bracing against Kanal’s knife.
One of Ibrahim’s patients had died, an old man whose wife had wept by his bed. Seeing the woman’s tears, he had thought of Naila, and how she’d had to tiptoe around his hurt pride. He’d been told that a woman should be a virgin when she married, and he’d been stupid enough to think it mattered. The man’s death had persuaded him otherwise, and he pushed open 8 Pechey Terrace’s front door intent on apologising.
He saw a man in the shadows by the back door, and when the man saw him, he rushed towards him, pushing past him onto the street. The man looked, to Ibrahim, to be Pakistani like himself, and when he got into the flat, he asked Naila if she knew whether there were any other Pakistanis in the building.
‘I don’t think so,’ Naila said. ‘What’s that on your jacket?’
Ibrahim looked down. On the arm of his jacket, where the man had pushed past him, there was blood.
‘You’ve got guests, darling,’ Maeve said. She’d come looking for Mateo, and found him in his office, nursing a large whisky.
‘They’re your guests, Maeve,’ he said, without looking at her.
She came around the desk and kneeled in front of him. ‘What’s wrong?’
‘What makes you think…’
‘Mateo,’ Maeve interrupted. ‘What’s wrong?’
‘That boy,’ Mateo sighed. ‘Where did I go wrong with that boy?’
‘Did you talk to him? I saw him earlier, he said he wanted to talk to you.’
‘He tried, and I…’ Mateo shook his head. ‘I threw him out. I threw my own son out into the street.’
‘I’m sure you can make amends,’ Maeve said. She took the glass of whisky from Mateo’s hand and put it on the desk. ‘Whisky makes you morose, darling. It always has.’
Mateo caught her hand as she withdrew it from the glass. ‘I never should have left you, Maeve.’
Maeve smiled. ‘No,’ she said. ‘You shouldn’t have.’
‘You shouldn’t have what?’ Daniella demanded. She was at the door, glaring at them.
Angel wondered why she’d bothered to come to the party. Katie hadn’t wanted to talk to her, Holly had left early, and she’d spent most of the night alone in the garden. The night had cooled, she could see the back door to the flats, and she wanted to go home.
It was dark in the stair, so dark that Angel almost didn’t see Sergio, slumped on the tiled floor. ‘Angel,’ he moaned, his voice a croak. ‘Angel.’
Wasted, she thought, rolling her eyes. ‘Go home, Sergio,’ she snapped, and climbed the stairs.
Holly came out of her flat as Angel reached the landing. ‘I thought I heard a fight or something,’ she said.
‘No,’ Angel said. ‘Just someone from the party. Wasted.’ She said goodbye, and went into her flat. Holly went into hers.
And in the darkness at the foot of the stairs, as the noise of the party carried into the night, Sergio lay bleeding.
AND THAT IS IT FOR SEASON 2 OF THE LINKS!
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