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'As well as being a compelling story, the author writes beautifully, something that is sometimes missing in this genre. A great read! ' (5*)MIranda Rijks
Author of psychological suspense thrillers, with Inkubator Books
'I thoroughly enjoyed this riches to rags story ... I am pretty good at determining 'whodunit', but this writer threw me ... I fell right into her trap and guessed wrong at least three times. I recommend this book if you like surprises'Norah Wolfenbarger
'I’ve just finished reading it, brilliant read, it’s fabulous' ... Drama, suspense, trauma, an amazing fall from grace, the book has it all. I couldn’t put it down. I’d happily give this book 5 stars PLUS'Tom Grealy
'Well written, elegantly phrased, yet with no fear with respect to showing the reader what runs through the gutters at times ... I can certainly recommend this book. A top read.'Steve William Rogan
Goodreads Author and Beta Reader for 'You Know What You Did'
But now someone is upset with her; badly. And someone is out for revenge.
Release date: March 25, 2021
Print pages: 215
Content advisory: Mild references to sex
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Behind the book
The idea for this book came to me from something which happened to an author friend of mine. I'd been reading a lot of psychological suspense thrillers, and it suddenly seemed natural to write one myself from the material given.
You Know What You Did
Here am I, and here’s the bookshop, and inside will be You, as promised
It’s the right shop (in case I was in any doubt, which I’m not), as the poster on the window proclaims it to be: ‘Amanda Roberts will be here on...’, with a date, and a book title, and the information that You will be here in person and signing Your new release, on that date and at such-and-such a time. The date has now been covered with a new poster, proudly proclaiming ‘TODAY!’, but not obscuring the pictures of You, smiling ingratiatingly for Your public and holding a copy of the text.
And below the picture, Your name; not Mine, as it ought to be; but all will come right, in time.
I’m the right person, for sure, in the right shop but in the wrong part of it; scanning the shelves of books rather than behind the table, signing them.
I walk around and find the display of Your books; no missing that, the tasteful cover image, an enlarged poster-sized copy, of course, to draw in the crowds that are expected, to guide them over here, to take a text from the piles which lie in their pristine purity beneath the display.
I take one, and follow the sign, with its very obvious arrow pointing the way; there’s no need for that, however. The queue of customers, mainly women, shows very obviously where to go. I join the line, wait, take my turn at the till and pay; cash, not card, however; no paper trail needed here to lead You back to me.
It’s a waste of money, of course, but necessary, just to get closer to You, momentarily. It’s You who should be paying; and it’s You who WILL pay; although not with common currency, because nothing but a special currency will do for You, one minted and printed by myself on the spiritual printing press which represents the non-printing of my own rejected offering. But I am patient; I can wait.
As I do now; and, finally, having made my transaction, I follow the line which winds its way across the shop to the table set up near the shelves at the back; the latter filled, I notice, with more copies of the book which I now hold in my hand, just in case someone, some fan, some star-struck celebrity-author-loving fool has gone directly to You without passing Go, without claiming their very own copy and, more importantly, paying at the designated desk. There’s another till, I see, prominently placed just over to the left of the table; no chance of anyone getting through without currency first changing hands.
Which includes You.
I continue to wait, patiently, and move slowly towards my goal. And then, there You are.
All teeth and hair, naturally, both bleached, expertly; big, wide smile for the punters, the readers, the followers. “Thank you for buying my book; who should I address it to?” To whom should I address it, surely? You’re supposed to be a writer, of English, yet You can’t even speak it correctly. I can hear You even before I’m within range. From here I can see the sickly simper, see You suck up to them because they’re the ones who pay the piper, and You dance to their tune, all the way to the bank.
Someone wants a selfie with You, and of course You oblige, displaying a copy of the book before You as they snuggle up against You and position the camera to get both in shot; or all three, including the book. No publicity is bad publicity, of course; that’ll go on Instagram, and possibly Bookstagram, You may be sure. So smile for the camera, put up with their bad breath, or hairy armpits and body odour, like the one in front of me; give them what they want and they’ll roll over and buy whatever You care to turn out. Even if it isn’t Your own work.
My turn arrives. I smile modestly, proffer the text and reply politely when You thank me, as You have and will thank all the others, for increasing Your already obscenely-large bank balance. Do You not recognise me? You ought to: those website photos are large enough, even if I’m not as big as You are, in the celebrity sense. Celebrity? I don’t even make that list; I’m unknown, unread, by the majority of the reading public, and now never likely to be, thanks to You. But there’s no hint of recognition in Your vapid gaze, which flicks its saccharine smile over me as over all those others in the line, both before and behind, who will dissolve back into the amorphous mass that makes up the general public once they’ve got Your precious validation inside their personal copy. You make them someone; a dedicated follower of Amanda Roberts, someone who will queue up for You to make Your mark in ink on the fly-leaf of their copy of Your text, in the shape of Your signature, with a custom dedication from You to whomever she requests You to address it.
For which You are awaiting me to inform You now; To whom should You make the dedication? Ah, You got it right that time; do You recognise a superior grammarian standing before you? Read me and weep; You will, You know (although You don’t know, not yet). Just to Lynette, if You please; no point in giving You my real name, even if You don’t know who I am at present. You will, at some point, and I don’t need You looking back and remembering it from today and putting two and two together. Not that You necessarily would; words are Your medium, allegedly, not numbers, but I don’t need to take unnecessary risks. What are You saying to me now? No, that’s quite alright, no selfie needed, thank You. I’ve no wish to bolster Your over-inflated ego any further.
I turn, vacate my place, which is instantly filled by the next adoring fan; the production line moves on its mechanical way as I walk towards the door and vacate the premises, leaving room for the constantly-arriving acolytes coming to worship at the temple of their goddess. As far as You are concerned, I have served my purpose; I have paid my money, taken my book, my existence as one of Your followers validated by the ink swirls which You have scrawled within. Now I can disappear back into the mass of humanity until You require my presence again, to follow You online until You deign to release Your next tome for my delectation.
I look back at the production line, weaving its way inexorably across the floor, to the desk and away again after You have ministered to their needs. Keep on signing Your books for them; in mine, You have just signed Your own death warrant.
BBC – NEWSFLASH – 3.10pm
“Some news just breaking, we’re receiving reports of an explosion in central Sheffield within the last hour. The emergency services are on the scene, there are reports of casualties but no details of these as yet. It’s too soon to tell what the cause might be, but at this stage the police aren’t ruling out the possibility of terrorist involvement.We’ll update that for you as soon as we have any more information. For the time being, if you or anyone you know has any concerns about any person who might have been in the area, we’ll be bringing a phone number up onto the screen in the next few minutes for you to call ...”
I didn’t know what was going on when the explosion happened; like everyone else I was frozen for a split second, and then physically jolted as the force of the blast travelled outwards, I suppose. Then the shouting began, some screams, and people started to scatter towards the doors. Someone, Carla, as it turned out, with great presence of mind, took my arm and steered me out of my chair. “Come on, we have to get out of here.” She headed out through the back, the staff area, with me in tow, as other people milled around, unsure I suppose whether it was safe to go out through the front, or the back, where we were headed, for that matter.
A member of staff was directing people out that way, with great authority, and we were overtaken by some women, panicking, in their haste to get away. “Mrs Roberts, please”; she saw me and took my other arm, helping Carla make sure that I was clear of the building.
I saw my driver of the day as we burst out through the back door, coming the other way; his obvious relief was as great as mine as he took charge of me, one arm around my shoulder, and half-walked, half-ran me towards the car park, with Carla in pursuit. “You OK? Both of you?”
“Yes, thank God”; my voice emerged more loudly than I’d expected, but I suppose the situation excused it. I heard Carla reply in the affirmative also; then, as we saw the car park ahead, I remembered. “Hayley! We can’t go without her!”
“We may have to”, my guardian (Ben, I later found his name to be) answered, with grim determination, and “No!”, as he grabbed Carla firmly by the arm, letting me go momentarily as she turned as if to run back the way we had come.
“We can’t go without her!” She tried to shake him off, and then, “There she is!” Looking around me wildly, through the people moving at speed in all directions, I spotted Hayley, running towards the car park in her sensible heels.
She saw us too; “Thank God I found you; are you alright?” We told her Yes, but there was no time for more as Ben herded us through the entrance to the multi-storey and up to the waiting car.
“Your friend?”, I managed to ask Hayley quickly, but she shook her head.
“I left her about half an hour ago, I wanted to go into Marks and get a couple of things”, and I saw the carrier in her hand, “so hopefully she got out of town before this happened”.
We were at the car by now and I grabbed a door handle, but “Wait!” Ben pulled me back. “Over there, until ...”; and he proceeded to get down on his hands and knees and check underneath the car for some moments. We let him do whatever he had to, dazed by the totally unexpected situation; acting like weak women, I thought with some disgust later, letting the macho man take charge.
“OK, all clear.” Ben was satisfied, beckoning us forward and opening the doors for us to get in; Carla up front, next to him, and Hayley next to me in the back. “Seat belts on?” He wasn’t forgetting any of the usual safety precautions, I thought, he was as unfazed as a person could be in the situation. He didn’t waste any time in getting us out of there, but at a safe speed, more slowly than the speed limit dictated, given that people were moving around the streets like chickens with their heads off, confused and disorientated by the situation. I could see them as we navigated the one-way system, and hear the sirens now, of the fire-engines and police cars and, probably, ambulances.
It wasn’t long before we were out of the town centre and heading down the slip road, onto the A5 and back the way we’d come what seemed like so long ago, but was only this morning, in actual fact. “You can breathe now, ladies.” Ben attempted to lighten the atmosphere and it worked, we all laughed, a small sigh of relief, more like, which took the edge off the stark and unreal atmosphere which had been hanging between us all.
“What was that, in the car park?” I asked then, “all that searching …?”
“I was in the Army; Northern Ireland. You get used to checking under cars.”
“Of course”; I realised, and he didn’t need to finish what he was saying. Then it hit me. “Do you really think someone might have put a bomb under our car?” He nodded, catching my eye in the rear-view mirror.
“I couldn’t rule it out. You were the visiting celebrity there today, and the bookshop’s been advertising the fact for a while; so, an explosion while you’re there might be too much of a coincidence. Sorry to put it so bluntly, but … .” He shrugged; “We’ll find out. But you’re out of it now, so try to relax”.
He reached over and switched on the radio, and Carla next to him put out a hand, “Let me?” So he let her change the switches, finding a news channel, while he turned his attention back to the road. While they were doing this I became aware of Hayley next to me, on her phone, taking a call; it was Jack, of course, frantic with worry, and she soon put him on to me.
“Amanda! Are you alright? It’s all over the news, I’ve been trying to call you … .” I realised then that my phone was still switched off, as I had left it during the signing session; how long ago that seemed. I apologised to Jack, but he understood, it had all been so fast. I let him know that I was OK, and Hayley, Carla and Ben were too, and that we were heading back towards London.
I was in the process of telling Jack what Ben had said, about the possibility of terrorism and me as the potential target, but he stopped me. “No, thank heavens, it can’t be that. They’re saying on the news that people are reporting a heavy smell of gas around before it blew, the company had workmen going to investigate already, before it happened, so it sounds like a gas leak. Do you have the radio on?” I told him yes, because Carla had the news on by then, although turned down because I was on the phone. I gestured her to turn it up, and kept Jack on hold while we listened to the report. It was as Jack had said, gas appears to have been the culprit, and I was so relieved.
“Are you coming straight home now?” I hadn’t thought that far ahead, with the shock and stress and now relief, but I realised that life has to go on.
“Darling, I can’t, I have the launch. It’s been appalling, what happened ...”, and I paused and listened as the radio went on to say that no-one was dead, miraculously, but there were some injuries, and I felt guilty for my own relief. “But life has to go on”, I told him, “and for me it means the launch party tonight, as planned. It’s all arranged, I can’t not go”. He sighed, and agreed, and I let him go.
Relief washed over me, and I checked that Hayley and Carla were feeling the same; they were both making phone calls, to let whoever cares about them know that they were alright, and Ben made a fast hands-free call to tell his wife, briefly. Hayley’s friend Freda was fine, apparently, she was driving home and well out of the town centre before the explosion. “Try to get some rest”, I told the girls, “then we’ll get back to normal and nail the party tonight”.
I left them to de-stress in their own ways, and tried to put the incident behind me, by thinking as I would normally do after a publicity event; I think it through, checking what went well and what badly. So I put my mind firmly into the present and focused.
The signing went well today; an auspicious start to the publicity campaign. The fans were out in force, all ready for the latest Amanda Roberts offering, and pleased to be privileged to have their copies bought and signed before the official launch party, which will take place tonight. Now they feel especially-blessed, the chosen amongst my readers, and will hopefully follow me more slavishly than they did before.
It pleases me that, in this new era of the eBook, there is still a hard core of readers who cling to the desire for a physical, paperback copy; so the traditional signing sessions are still going strong. But we, well, Hayley, found a way to include those who have gone over to the eBook in the signings. From midnight last night, the eBook version was available to download, and the serious fans have been doing just that; and if they care to come to the signing session, and bring with them their copy, on smartphone, or tablet, or laptop, or Kindle, they will be given a compliments slip, made specifically for the book, with the cover artwork decorating it. They can then join the queue of paperback buyers, waiting to have their books signed, and have their compliments slip signed likewise. A brainwave which is going down well with e-readers.
Hayley was so pleased; it was her idea, a new departure which gained publicity in a different way, and you can’t have too much of that. Plus she thought up the idea of a lottery for the national bookshops, free entry for the prize of holding a pre-official-launch book sales and signing session, and this shop in Sheffield won. It’s just a pity that it’s such a long journey back to London from here for the party tonight. But it was part of the deal, and I’m lucky that the winner didn’t come from somewhere much further afield; Shetland or the Scilly Isles, for example.
I’m grateful for all of that, but a bit on edge nevertheless; the explosion keeps coming back and pushing its way into the forefront of my mind. A black cat walked in front of me, on my way into the bookshop, and it made me jump. Jack always says I’m silly, being superstitious, but I can’t help it, and I thought the cat didn’t bode well for the signing. Well, it didn’t, but for the town, rather than my affairs, and I feel bad about that, but justified for my superstitious turn of mind. As for the signing, I needn’t have worried; there was a massive turnout, which is a good omen for the success, rather than the failure, of the book. I’d been so worried that it wouldn’t sell, that my public wouldn’t like the new genre, the new style, the new subject matter. It’s such a pressure, constantly trying to come up with something different, something that hasn’t already been done to death.
I put these thoughts aside and try to sleep, but sleep won’t come, so I think about what awaits me in London. The launch party for my new novel, the latest in a string of successes; my achievements, they are, including the fact that I’ve disproved the old adage that it’s best to write about what you know. I smile to myself, a little smugly, at the thought of my own wonderful life. My characters get divorced, lose their partners, their children, their homes, their lives, even, whereas my own life has been lived a very long way from any of those things; and now I’m on my way to London to celebrate the fact of my charmed life.
I settle back and try to relax as well as I can during the journey there. At least I don’t have to drive myself, but the train would have done, First Class of course, to avoid crowding, but Hayley wouldn’t hear of it. So what if a private car costs, she said, you’re a star and you need to act like one; and I’m so glad that she did now. I can’t imagine getting to the station after the explosion and waiting there; they’d probably have stopped the trains and we’d have still have been stuck there now. But Jack, dear Jack, was in total agreement with her, wouldn’t hear of me slumming it on public transport. My darling wife, the celebrity author; nothing too good for her, in his opinion.
I’m lucky to have him, in more ways than one. He’s worked hard, and made his money, and now he’s happy to work from home, run his empire by remote control, going in once a week to keep tabs on what’s going on, keep his finger on the pulse, but the rest of the time keeping on the ball with his minions via video-conferencing. He goes to international meetings in person, of course, when there’s something new going on, but when I can’t be around, as I won’t be for quite some time in the near future, with the publicity trips, the signings, the guest talks at universities, book fairs and so forth, he’s there to keep the home together and mind the children.
The children; our pigeon pair, a girl and a boy, Elsie with her midnight mop of curls and Nat with his limpid dark eyes. I love them so much, and I know I’m so fortunate to have them. There were never any of the problems which so many people seem to suffer nowadays in having children; they just came along when required, three years apart, which is the ideal time gap. I always wanted children, what woman wouldn’t, and so did Jack; but we didn’t want to rush it, as so many people seem to. “Take a few years”, our respective parents said, “enjoy each other, because there’ll be precious little time for that once the babies come along”. So we took their advice, plus the requisite few years, before I stopped using birth control; and almost exactly one year afterwards along came Elsie. Nature seemed to know, in our case, that a break was needed to get the first child to a certain stage of development before the second came, and when Elsie was three Nat joined us.
Both easy births, so easy in Elsie’s case that I was glad I’d decided on a home birth, with a birthing pool, and the private midwife that Jack insisted on installed in the house when my time came close. I was in labour for such a short time, and Jack only just made it home in time for the birth. He’d elected to work from home when it became imminent, but of course he’d gone to the shops to get something when Elsie decided that it was time to arrive. Nat wasn’t in quite such a hurry, but still arrived quickly, with Jack there to hold my hand as I ejected my second child into the birthing pool. And that was it; no anguish with thermometers and calendars before resorting to fertility treatments, we had our pair and Nature drew a line under our productivity at that.
I’m also fortunate that I too can work from home, apart from the publicity bandwagon, as at present, of course, but for the majority of the time I’m home and so around for Elsie and Nat. No child-care needed here; between Jack and I, not forgetting Hayley, who’s a constant presence and a help with the children alongside her work for me, and Emily who does everything around the house for us, and Dan who does the garden, there’s a constant parental or adult presence around the home.
I was never really sure what I wanted to do with my life, apart from marriage and children, of course, but I felt that I needed something else to usefully express my potential. I went to university, naturally, although I never had any very clear idea of why; all my friends were going, and my parents could afford it on my father’s income as a consultant at his own private clinic. He even bought me my own little house, in the town, after I’d spent the first year in campus accommodation. It was a good investment, and sold for a tidy profit when I left, and my parents gifted me the money to start independent life with.
English Literature seemed the best degree to go for; I was always reading books, after all, so doing something I liked was the obvious choice. I had a great time at university, not having to take on some little job in a shop or bar to make ends meet, like so many others, and came out with a 2:2; not the best grade, but my parents told me to take my time deciding what to do, and I’d met Jack by then, anyway.
It must have been fate, our meeting. My father’s receptionist had let him down at the last minute one day, ill with food poisoning she said, and it would have taken time which he didn’t have to get someone from an agency. So I stepped into the breach for the day; well, I didn’t really have anything else to do, so it made sense and it wasn’t really arduous work. Mostly it was just being there, in case; the filing and so forth could wait until the regular receptionist came back. Answering the phone had to be done, obviously, but most of the time it was fine to take a message and have my father call them back later. The appointments for the day were booked already, so it was just a question of making the clients comfortable in the waiting room when they arrived, making them tea, or coffee, or whatever they needed.
And then he walked in, and I’d never met anyone quite like him. Of course there’d been a few boyfriends at university, nothing serious though, no-one I ever wanted to become intimate with; but I think I fell in love with him at first sight. Jack, with his debonair walk, the ultra-dark of his eyes which sparkled inside the whites which framed them, set off admirably by the dark-coffee colour of his skin, his curly hair and his wide and appealing smile, which widened even more when he saw me. He had an ongoing sports injury issue, it turned out, so he’d been to the clinic on several occasions in the recent past. “You’re new”, he told me, rather than asking; “Is Tracey not here any longer?”. I explained the situation, and that I was filling-in; but for some reason I didn’t tell him that I was the daughter of Mr Baker.
When he’d seen my father, he emerged and gave me a mock-serious and playful look. “You should have told me who you were; I’ve just made a total prat of myself by telling your dad that his temp receptionist is a bit of all right. I felt a right fool when he told me you were his daughter.” “Sorry”, I told him, while blushing modestly at the compliment, but the smile he was giving me in return told me that he was OK about it, so I smiled back, and that was it. A dinner date, followed by another, and another, a trip to an art gallery followed by dinner, a cruise on a private boat on the Thames, a trip to Ascot by helicopter … it was a whirlwind courtship, and I had no hesitation in saying Yes, when he asked me to marry him.
I look down at my wedding ring then, as I think about all my blessings; I’ve totally forgotten about Sheffield, and what happened there, and London, with what awaits me there. Then I’m jolted out of my thoughts and back to reality as I feel the car slowing gradually before it comes to a halt. I look out of the window; we must be getting close to London now, the M25 from the look of it, in gridlock as might be expected at this time on a Friday afternoon. I sigh; it’s necessary to ride the publicity bandwagon at the time of a new publication, but it can be so tiring and I feel my eyes, heavy now and ready to sleep. “Wake me when we get there”, I tell Hayley, who’s sitting next to me.
“I might just join you, if that’s OK?” she asks, and I nod. She relays a wake-up call alert to Carla, who doesn’t seem in the slightest bit tired, up there next to Ben. She did good work today, not just during the emergency but in keeping an eagle eye on things and making sure it all went off smoothly before that; I’m impressed.
Hayley arranged the whole thing and wanted to be there to oversee it; but she has an old friend in Sheffield, she told me, who she doesn’t see very often, working in the South, so asked if she could disappear for a couple of hours while we were there, to have lunch and catch up. “It’ll be good for Carla to learn the ropes”, she said, “to take charge, great experience for her; I’ll be on my phone if needed, and I won’t be far away, Freda’s booked lunch just five minutes away, so I can get here if something goes disastrously wrong; which it won’t, I’m sure”.
Well, it didn’t, not for the signing, anyway. But Carla coped with the evacuation, and Hayley got back quickly, so we’re all well and lucky to be so and, for the signing, everything went off far better than expected. But I’m tired now, and I suppose it’s only to be expected. I close my eyes to try once again to get such sleep as I can before we arrive at the hotel, to freshen up and change before the launch party. I’m comforted by the thoughts of my wonderful life, but I still can’t shake the bad memories of the day; added to which I have a slight feeling of foreboding for what’s to come, and I don’t know why. I bear a charmed life, I’m sure, I got through today, didn’t I? What could possibly go wrong now?
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