Yes, Your Highness. Yes, you’ve been there, too.

Can you please shut up? she snapped. Reach for the embankment when you can and pull us in—

‘It’s all right. I was going to give you a good tip anyway,’ said Jack. He sat back and closed his eyes, the gentle rocking motion soothing him as the cab trundled through Central London.‘Suit yourself, mate,’ muttered the driver.

The Jack Hart Show was broadcast live five mornings a week and had risen in the ratings over the past year – but it still had a way to go to beat its rival, The Jeremy Kyle Show.Jack Hart prided himself that the show was broadcast live. It gave them an edge, and kept them in the press. Five days a week his guests, in the grand tradition of The Jerry Springer Show, sought out and fought out their fifteen minutes of fame by airing their dirty laundry on camera, and people loved it.Jack had started out as a journalist in Fleet Street, and learned his murky trade as an investigative journalist exposing torrid celebrity affairs, dodgy politicians and ‘human interest’ stories. He often described The Jack Hart Show as a tabloid newspaper smeared across the camera lens.

Megan Fairchild had been a case in point. Her baby daddy had been sleeping with her own father, but the researchers on the show had failed to dig up that Megan’s father had also sexually abused her throughout her childhood. The day after the controversial show was broadcast, Megan had taken her own life and that of her unborn child by drinking a litre of weedkiller.Publicly, Jack had been repentant, and he wasn’t stone-hearted enough not to be saddened by the deaths. But privately Jack and his producers had courted the press exposure, hoping that the media storm would send their ratings through the roof.

He opened his eyes and pulled out his phone, logging on to check his Twitter feed. He was reassured to see that people were still talking about Megan’s death, and there were some more great RIP tweets from D-list celebs. He retweeted them and then logged onto the Go Fund Me page that had been set up to raise money in Megan’s honour. It had just reached £100,000 in donations. He retweeted this with a message of thanks, and then settled back, humming ‘And the Money Kept Rolling In’ from his favourite musical, Evita.

Forty-five minutes later, the taxi pulled up at Jack’s large, handsome house in Dulwich. He thanked the driver, feeling part-relieved, part-disappointed that there weren’t more photographers waiting for him outside. He could only count five. They must have got what they wanted outside the bar, without having to schlep across the river, he thought. He got out and paid the driver through the passenger window. The photographers started clicking away, their bright flashes bouncing off the black taxi and surrounding houses.The bed squeaked and shifted as Simone climbed in beside him. There was a soft crackle of plastic as she reached across and slipped the bag over his head.

Stephen panicked and lashed out, catching Simone on the side of her head with his fist. She tried to ignore the pain and the burst of stars in her vision and jerked at the string, pulling it tight around his neck. He fought harder and lashed out again, punching her in the mouth. The strength of his blow surprised her; she thought, by now, he would have been very subdued and weakened by the drug pumping through his veins. She yanked the cord roughly and it tightened further, biting into the skin of his neck. He started to thrash around on the mattress, trying to move away from her across the bed. She thought he was trying to escape, only realising what he was doing when his arm came up and something very hard and heavy crashed down onto the back of her head. He didn’t have the strength to land a serious blow, though, and the large object glanced off her head and rolled onto the mattress.The bag was now tight on his head, the plastic starting to form a vacuum over his face and his groaning mouth. Simone held onto the bag with one hand and searched with her free hand for what had hit her. Stephen’s elbow landed a painful blow to her temple and her hand closed around a large heavy marble ashtray. He was scrabbling madly at the plastic over his face, choking and retching. He placed his feet on the mattress and pushed up with his legs. Simone felt his head pull away from her. She lifted the ashtray high in the air and, with all her strength, brought it down on his head. There was a sickening thud as the front of his skull caved in. She lifted the ashtray and brought it down again, and again. On the third blow, the plastic bag burst and blood and bone mottled the wall.

She sat there on the mattress, shaking. She’d done it. She’d done it. But she’d screwed up badly. It was then that she ran out of the bedroom, falling down half the flight of stairs, and kept running, out of the flat. She didn’t stop until she was safely away, shrouded by the darkness and the pouring rain.Erika jumped as her landline began to ring, cutting through the sound of the pounding rain. She didn’t know how long she’d been staring at the neat handwriting in the card. She grabbed the phone off the floor beside her front door and answered.

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