TWO DEAD WIVES
Author: Adele Parks
Publication Date: December 26, 2023
18.99 US | 23.99 CAN
Lost. Missing. Murdered? How do you find a woman who didn’t exist?It's a case that has gripped a nation: A woman with a shocking secret is missing, presumed dead. And her two husbands are suspects in her murder.DCI Clements knows the dark side of human nature and that love can make people do treacherous things. You can’t presume anything when it comes to crimes of the heart. Until a body is found, this scandalous and sad case remains wide open.Stacie Jones lives a quiet life in a small village, nursed by her father as she recovers from illness, and shielded from any news of the outside world. But their reclusive life is about to be shattered.How are these families linked, and can any of them ever rebuild their lives in the wake of tragedy?
Author Website: https://www.adeleparks.com/
Adele Parks was born in North Yorkshire. She is the author of twenty-one bestselling novels. Over four million UK copies of her work have been sold, and her books have been translated into thirty-one different languages. Adele’s recent Sunday Times number one bestsellers Lies, Lies, Lies and Just My Luck were short-listed for the British Book Awards and have been optioned for development for TV. She is an ambassador of the National Literacy Trust and The Reading Agency, two charities that promote literacy in the UK. She is a judge for the Costa Book Awards. Adele has lived in Botswana, Italy and London and is now settled in Guildford, Surrey. In 2022 she was awarded an MBE for services to literature.
Chapter 1 Excerpt DC CLEMENTS
There is no body. A fact DC Clements finds both a problem and a tremulous, tantalizing possibility. She’s not a woman inclined to irrational hope, or even excessive hope. Any damned hope, really. At least, not usually.
Kylie Gillingham is probably dead.
The forty-three-year-old woman has been missing nearly two weeks. Ninety-seven percent of the 180,000 people a year who are reported missing are found within a week, dead or alive. She hasn’t been spotted by members of the public, or picked up on CCTV; her bank, phone and email accounts haven’t been touched. She has social media registered under her married name, Kai Janssen; they’ve lain dormant. No perky pictures of carefully arranged books, lattes, Negronis or peonies. Kylie Gillingham hasn’t returned to either of her homes. Statistically, it’s looking very bad.
Experience would also suggest this sort of situation has to end terribly. When a wife disappears, all eyes turn on the husband. In this case, there is not one but two raging husbands left behind. Both men once loved the missing woman very much. Love is just a shiver away from hate.
The evidence does not conclusively indicate murder. There is no body. But a violent abduction is a reasonable proposition—police-speak, disciplined by protocol. Kidnap and abuse, possible torture is likely—woman-speak, fired by indignation. They know Kylie Gillingham was kept in a room in an uninhabited apartment just floors below the one she lived in with husband number two, Daan Janssen. That’s not a coincidence. There is a hole in the wall of that room; most likely Kylie punched or kicked it. The debris created was flung through a window into the street, probably in order to attract attention. Her efforts failed. Fingerprints place her in the room; it’s unlikely she was simply hanging out or even hiding out, as there is evidence to suggest she was chained to the radiator.
Yet despite all this, the usually clear, logical, reasonable Clements wants to ignore statistics, experience and even evidence that suggests the abduction ended in fatal violence. She wants to hope.
There just might be some way, somehow, that Kylie—enigma, bigamist—escaped from that sordid room and is alive. She might be in hiding. She is technically a criminal, after all; she might be hiding from the law. She can hardly go home. She will know by now that her life of duplicity is exposed. She will know her husbands are incensed. Baying for blood. She has three largely uninterested half brothers on her father’s side, and a mother who lives in Australia. None of them give Clements a sense that they are helping or protecting Kylie. She will know who abducted her. If alive, she must be terrified.
Clements’ junior partner, Constable Tanner, burly and blunt as usual, scoffs at the idea that she escaped. He’s waiting for a body; he’d settle for a confession. It’s been four days now since Daan Janssen left the country. “Skipped justice,” as Tanner insists on saying. But the constable is wet behind the ears. He still thinks murder is glamorous and career-enhancing. Clements tries to remember: did she ever think that way? She’s been a police officer for nearly fifteen years; she joined the force straight out of university, a few years younger than Tanner is now, but no, she can’t remember a time when she thought murder was glamorous.
“He hasn’t skipped justice. We’re talking to him and his lawyers,” she points out with what feels like the last bit of her taut patience.
“You’re being pedantic.”
“I’m being accurate.”
“But you’re talking to him through bloody Microsoft Teams,” says Tanner dismissively. “What the hell is that?”
“The future.” Clements sighs. She ought to be offended by the uppity tone of the junior police officer. It’s disrespectful. She’s the detective constable. She would be offended if she had the energy, but she doesn’t have any to spare. It’s all focused on the case. On Kylie Gillingham. She needs to remain clear-sighted, analytical. They need to examine the facts, the evidence, over and over again. To be fair, Constable Tanner is focused too, but his focus manifests in frenetic frustration. She tries to keep him on track. “Look, lockdown means Daan Janssen isn’t coming back to the UK for questioning any time soon. Even if there wasn’t a strange new world to negotiate, we couldn’t force him to come to us, not without arresting him, and I can’t do that yet.”
Tanner knocks his knuckles against her desk as though he is rapping on a door, asking to be let in, demanding attention. “But all the evidence—”
“Is circumstantial.” Tanner knows this; he just can’t quite accept it. He feels the finish line is in sight, but he can’t cross it, and it frustrates him. Disappoints him. He wants the world to be clear-cut. He wants crimes to be punished, bad men behind bars, a safer realm. He doesn’t want some posh twat flashing his passport and wallet, hopping on a plane to his family mansion in the Netherlands and getting away with it. Daan Janssen’s good looks and air of entitlement offend Tanner. Clements understands all that. She understands it but has never allowed personal bias and preferences to cloud her investigating procedures.
“We found her phones in his flat!” Tanner insists.
“Kylie could have put them there herself,” counters Clements. “She did live there with him as his wife.”
“And we found the receipt for the cable ties and the bucket from the room she was held in.”
“We found a receipt. The annual number of cable ties produced is about a hundred billion. A lot of people buy cable ties. Very few of them to bind their wives to radiators. Janssen might have wanted to neaten up his computer and charger cords. He lives in a minimalist house. That’s what any lawyer worth their salt will argue.” Clements rolls her head from left to right; her neck clicks like castanets.
“His fingerprints are on the food packets.”
“Which means he touched those protein bars. That’s all they prove. Not that he took them into the room. Not that he was ever in the room.”
Exasperated, Tanner demands, “Well how else did they get there? They didn’t fly in through the bloody window, did they?” Clements understands he’s not just excitable, he cares. He wants this resolved. She likes him for it, even if he’s clumsy in his declarations. It makes her want to soothe him; offer him guarantees and reassurances that she doesn’t even believe in. She doesn’t soothe or reassure, because she has to stay professional, focused. The devil is in the detail. She just has to stay sharp, be smarter than the criminal. That’s what she believes. “She might have brought them in from their home. He might have touched them in their flat. That’s what a lawyer will argue.”
“He did it all right, no doubt about it,” asserts Tanner with a steely certainty.
Clements knows that there is always doubt. A flicker, like a wick almost lit, then instantly snuffed. Nothing is certain in this world. That’s why people like her are so important; people who know about ambiguity yet carry on regardless, carry on asking questions, finding answers. Dig, push, probe. That is her job. For a conviction to be secured in a court of law, things must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. It isn’t easy to do. Barristers are brilliant, wily. Jurors can be insecure, overwhelmed. Defendants might lie, cheat. The evidence so far is essentially fragile and hypothetical.
“I said, didn’t I. Right at the beginning, I said it’s always the husband that’s done it,” Tanner continues excitedly. He did say as much, yes. However, he was talking about Husband Number 1, Mark Fletcher, at that point, if Clements’ memory serves her correctly, which it always does. And even if her memory one day fails to be the reliable machine that it currently is, she takes notes—meticulous notes—so she always has those to rely on. Yes, Tanner said it was the husband, but this case has been about which husband. Daan Janssen, married to Kai: dedicated daughter to a sick mother, classy dresser and sexy wife. Or Mark Fletcher, husband to Leigh: devoted stepmother, conscientious management consultant and happy wife? Kai. Leigh. Kylie. Kylie Gillingham, the bigamist, had been hiding in plain sight. But now she is gone. Vanished.
“The case against Janssen is gathering momentum,” says Clements, carefully.
“Because Kylie was held captive in his apartment block.”
“Which is right on the river, easy way to lose a body.”
She winces at this thought but stays on track. “Obviously Mark Fletcher has motive too. A good lawyer trying to cast doubt on Janssen’s guilt might argue that Fletcher knew about the other husband and followed his wife to her second home.”
Tanner is bright, fast; he chases her line of thought. He knows the way defense lawyers create murky waters. “Fletcher could have confronted Kylie somewhere in the apartment block.”
“A row. A violent moment of fury,” adds Clements. “He knocks her out cold. Then finds an uninhabited apartment and impetuously stashes her there.”
Tanner is determined to stick to his theory that Janssen is the guilty man. “Sounds far-fetched. How did he break in? This thing seems more planned.”
“I agree, but the point is, either husband could have discovered the infidelity, then, furious, humiliated and ruthless, imprisoned her. They’d have wanted to scare and punish, reassert control, show her who was boss.” They know this much, but they do not know what happened next. Was she killed in that room? If so, where is the body hidden? “And you know we can’t limit this investigation to just the two husbands. There are other suspects,” she adds.
Tanner flops into his chair, holds up a hand and starts to count off the suspects on his fingers. “Oli, Kylie’s teen stepson. He has the body and strength of a man…”
Clements finishes his thought. “But the emotions and irrationality of a child. He didn’t know his stepmum was a bigamist, but he did know she was having an affair. It’s possible he did something rash. Something extreme that is hard to come back from.”
“Then there’s the creepy concierge in the swanky apartment block.”
“Yeah, he might be our culprit.”
Clements considers it. “He has access to all the flats, the back stairs, the CCTV.”
“He’s already admitted that he deleted the CCTV from the day Kylie was abducted. He said that footage isn’t kept more than twenty-four hours unless an incident of some kind is reported. Apparently the residents insist on this for privacy. It might be true. It might be just convenient.”
Clements nods. “And then there’s Fiona Phillipson. The best friend.”
“Bloody hell. We have more suspects than an Agatha Christie novel,” says Tanner with a laugh that is designed to hide how overwhelmed and irritated he feels. His nose squashed up against shadowy injustice, cruel violence and deception.
“I still think the husband did it.”
“Crap. Round and round in circles we go.” He scratches his head aggressively. “Do you want me to order in pizza? It’s going to be a long night.”
“Is anyone still doing deliveries? I don’t think they are,” points out Clements. “You know, lockdown.”
“Crap,” he says again, and then rallies. “Crisps and chocolate from the vending machine then. We’ll need something to sustain us while we work out where Kylie is.”
Clements smiles to herself. It’s the first time in a long time that Tanner has referred to Kylie by name, not as “her” or “the bigamist” or, worse, “the body.” It feels like an acceptance of a possibility that she might be somewhere. Somewhere other than dead and gone.
Did she somehow, against the odds, escape? Is Kylie Gillingham—the woman who dared to defy convention, the woman who would not accept limits and laughed in the face of conformity—still out there, somehow just being?
God, Clements hopes so.
Excerpted from Two Dead Wives by Adele Parks. Copyright © 2023 by Adele Parks. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.