The Dark Rose

by Erin Kelly

The Dark Rose

Hardcover, 322 pages, Penguin Group USA, List Price: $26.95 | purchase

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Book Summary

A nineteen-year-old boy who has led a life of crime starts a secret affair with a girl who spends her days renovating the grounds of a crumbling Elizabethan garden, but neither of them can outrun their violent pasts.

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Excerpt: The Dark Rose

September 2009

They had not yet charged him with anything. That was the main thing. As long as they didn't charge him he could tell himself that he was there as a witness, not as an accom­plice. Paul looked around the cell. There was no window, just a row of square frosted-glass bricks at the top of the wall that let in enough light to show that it was morning again but not enough to warm the cell. Outside it would be warm, hot even, if the days before were anything to go by. He remembered the short staircase he had de­scended to enter the plain little corridor with its studded doors and calculated that this part of the building was sunk into the ground. Its bare surfaces were all cold to the touch; he could feel the floor, cool and hard through his socks. The scratchy brown blanket hadn't helped; Paul had spent the night alternating between using it as a pillow to stop himself from getting a neck ache and as a cover to stop himself from shivering. The nightmares that had shaken him awake suggested that he had managed some sleep, but he felt as though it had been weeks since he closed his eyes. He needed the toilet so badly that he had a cramp in his belly, but there was no paper next to the little steel bowl, and he didn't want to call out for any in case Daniel was nearby and heard him. He might even be in the next cell; the silence didn't mean anything.

He was examining his fingertips, wondering how long it would take for the blue ink to fade completely from the whorls, when there was the sound of a bolt being drawn back, and the door to his cell was thrown open with a reverberating clang. The acoustics of incar­ceration were new to him. They were familiar to Daniel, of course, who long before his first arrest had inherited a folk memory of heavy doors and alarmed corridors, and who talked about plod and Old Bill and the filth. Paul had always called them the police with the absentminded respect that those who never really believe they will encounter them can afford.

A uniformed officer told him it was time to go back to the inter­view room. He wondered what they would throw at him today. If they arrest you, Daniel had said, never answer, never explain. If you don't say it, they can't use it. Of course he had been preparing Paul to defend himself against charges of robbery or handling or trespass, but presumably the principle also applied for something like this. The longer he thought about it, the more convinced he was that there was no way for them to prove he had been there.

They passed a bathroom in the corridor: Paul begged, and the officer took pity on him, waiting outside the stall. It was like the exams at college, where if you needed to go the teachers would es­cort you and hover at the urinal, as though you'd written the answers on the porcelain in invisible ink. Just like the school toilets, this bathroom had cubicles that amplified the sounds inside. Paul relaxed his bowels and cringed at the splash. There was no mirror over the sinks, for which he was grateful. The third dispenser he tried actu­ally contained some soap: a little squirt of foam that looked soft and fluffy, but when he washed his face with it his skin became tight and sore, as though he'd splashed bleach on it. He tried putting some on his little finger and cleaning his teeth, but the taste was so bitter he was forced to spit it into the sink.

It was the same room as before, completely windowless with dark blue walls that made it look like midnight no matter the time. Only air vents in the door and at knee level reassured Paul that they weren't all going to suffocate. The black Formica table had a tatty wooden trim; their chairs were also wooden, with black vinyl seats, but his was orange plastic and attached to the floor with bolts. The reel-to-reel tape recorder took up half the table. The detectives were the same too: the man called Detective Sergeant Woburn and the woman who had given her title but immediately afterward asked him to call her Christine, with the result that he instantly forgot her rank and surname. They both looked fresh, and Paul realized that while he had spent the night in the station, they would have gone home to their own beds and showers and toilets. Woburn had shaved — the skin on his cheeks was pink and angry — but there was already a hint of shadow on his jaw. Paul cupped his own chin and wondered when he had last taken a razor to it. Four days ago? Five? And he was still days away from the beginnings of a beard.

He had a hard time believing Christine was a police officer. She wore lipstick and earrings, and her hair was cut in a proper style. She couldn't have been more different from the squat, sour little woman who had taken his belt and his phone and his keys and his shoes away from him the previous day. Only the solicitor, a man in his fifties called Rob, looked like Paul felt. He was bleary-eyed and greasy-haired and had the appearance of someone who had pulled an all-nighter. Paul remembered that Rob had looked like this when he turned up at the station yesterday and, judging by his eggy tie and tatty shoes, probably did most of the time.

Woburn stared him out while Christine smiled, then lowered her eyes. He wished he could read their minds. Daniel was big on body language: Of necessity, he was better able to read people's minds than anyone else Paul had ever met. He always knew what you were thinking. That was one of the reasons it was so difficult to lie to him.

The tape recorder clunked and whirred into action. "Interview with Paul Seaforth resumed at nine-twenty hours, first September 2009," said Woburn. "We were discussing the events of the evening of thirtieth August, same year. While you were sleeping, we had a little chat with Scatlock. He's told us the lot."

From The Dark Rose by Erin Kelly. Copyright 2012 by Erin Kelly. Excerpted by permission of Pamela Dorman Books / Viking, a member of Penguin Group Inc.

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