Blue Genes - By Val McDermid

Chapter 1
The day Richard's death announcement appeared in the Manchester Evening Chronicle, I knew I couldn't postpone clearing up the mess any longer. But there was something I had to do first. I stood in the doorway of the living room of the man who'd been my lover for three years, Polaroid in hand, surveying the chaos. Slowly, I swept the camera lens around the room, carefully record¬ing every detail of the shambles, section by section. This was one time I wasn't prepared to rely on memory. Richard might be gone, but that didn't mean I was going to take any unnecessary risks. Private eyes who do that seldom make it to membership in the Gray Panthers.

Once I had a complete chronicle of exactly how things had been left in the room that was a mirror image of my own bungalow next door, I started my mammoth task. First, I sorted things into piles; books, magazines, CDs, tapes, promo videos, the detritus of a rock journalist's life. Then I arranged them. Books, alphabetically, on the shelf unit. CDs ditto. The tapes I stacked in the storage unit Richard had bought for the purpose one Sunday when I'd managed to drag him round Ikea, the 19905 equivalent of buying an engagement ring. I'd even put the cabinet together for him, but he'd never got into the habit of using it, preferring the haphazard stacks and heaps strewn all over the floor. I buried the surge of emotion that came with the memory and carried on doggedly. The maga¬zines I stacked out of sight in the conservatory that runs along the back of both our houses, linking them together more firmly than we'd ever been prepared to do in any formal sense with our lives.

I leaned against the wall and looked around the room. When people say, "It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it," how come we never really believe we'll be the ones left clutching the sticky end? I sighed and forced myself on. I emptied ashtrays of the roaches left from Richard's joints, gathered together pens and pencils and stuffed them into the sawn-off Sapporo beer can he'd used for the purpose for as long as I'd known him. I picked up the assorted notepads, sheets of scrap paper, and envelopes where he'd scribbled down vital phone numbers and quotes, careful not to render them any more disordered than they were already, and took them through to the room he used as his office when it wasn't occupied by his nine-year-old son Davy on one of his regular visits. I dumped them on the desk on top of a remarkably similar looking pile already there.

Back in the living room, I was amazed by the effect. It almost looked like a room I could sit comfortably in. Cleared of the usual junk, it was possible to see the pat¬tern on the elderly Moroccan rug that covered most of the floor and the sofas could for once accommodate the five people they were designed for. I realized for the first time that the coffee table had a central panel of glass. I'd been trying for ages to get him to put the room into something approaching a civilized state, but he'd always resisted me. Even though I'd finally got my own way, I can't say it made me happy. But then, I couldn't get out of my mind the reason behind what I was doing here, and what lay ahead. The announcement of Richard's death was only the beginning of a chain of events that would be a hell of a lot more testing than tidying a room.

I thought about brushing the rug, but I figured that was probably gilding the lily, the kind of activity that peo¬ple found a little bizarre after the death of a lover. And bizarre was not the impression I wanted to give. I went back through to my house and changed from the sweat pants and tee shirt I'd worn to do the cleaning into some¬thing more appropriate for a grieving relict: a charcoal wool wraparound skirt from the French Connection sale and a black lambswool turtleneck I'd chosen for the one and only reason that it made me look like death. There are times in a private eye's working life when looking like she's about to keel over is an image preferable to that of Wonder Woman on whizz.

I was about to close the conservatory door behind me as I returned to Copyright 2016 - 2024