Extract of Trust

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    A woman and a man. They stood on my doorstep, smiling but not with their eyes. The woman was smart and stylish, in a wholesome Head Girl kind of way. Her glossy brown hair was cut in a neat bob: her navy suit finished modestly at the knee. She had a faint clean smell, of deodorant, perhaps, or fabric conditioner. The man was younger - tall, gangly, with his hair slicked back like Elvis.

"Mrs. Langdon?" said the woman.

"Yes," I said.

They showed me their identification.

"We're sorry to disturb you like this," said the woman. "We did try to phone, but no-one answered."

"You'd better come in," I said.

They followed me past the door to the sitting room. Lucy was in there, settled in front of Tots TV as though entranced, her chest heaving with slow sleepy breaths, her comforter, an old cardigan, pressed to her cheek. She looked appealingly scruffy after her day at infant school, her face a little smudged, pale fronds of hair escaped from her scrunchie straggling down over her shoulders. She didn't turn her head as we passed: she wouldn't get up for an hour or so. This mattered to me: I wanted desperately to protect her from what was about to happen.

My kitchen was full of syrupy autumn sunlight. Geraniums flared red on my windowsill. Outside in the garden, the shadow of the apple tree fell sharp and dark across the bright grass. A bee buzzed opulently in the honeysuckle at the window, unnervingly loud in the stillness. I was acutely aware of all these things, as though all my senses were sharpened. Everything was precise and loud and clear.

The man and the woman stood either side of my big oak table. They seemed to use up a lot of space. It was the moment when you expect a visitor to express some sort of approbation - "What a fabulous old fireplace" or "I love your children's drawings". They just stood there - not hostile, but not friendly either. A shaft of sunlight fell on the table between us. Dustmotes danced in it, casually beautiful.

"We want to talk to you about Daniel Whitmore," they said.

"Yes," I said. "Why don't you sit down."

They sat. The man had very long legs: he shifted around, trying to work out where to put his feet. They opened their briefcases, took out pens and notepads. The man had something else too, a blue official-looking folder. He put the folder down, opened it to reveal some handwritten pages inside, straightened it between his palms so it was neatly parallel to the edge of the table. What I saw there between those exact and unfamiliar hands appalled me. The writing was my own.
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