"So, what exactly are we doing?"
Copper slipped into the front passenger seat of the hire car, casting a guilty glance back at the hotel and the swarming reporters as she did so. "You know you're breaking bounds by doing this, Sadie - Jetta made us promise to keep you to the hotel, just in case things went wrong."
"Well, that's partly why Im taking you with me." Sadie strapped herself in, putting the vehicle in gear and pulling out of the parking lot before any of the reporters realised what was going on. "Firstly so that I've someone to back up what happens, and secondly, because the person we're going to see you've met."
"I have?" Copper looked taken aback. Sadie nodded grimly.
"Briefly." She agreed. "I don't like this one bit, Copper. I wish it had occured to me earlier, but when I think about things, it's the only thing that really fits."
"Care to clue me in?" Copper asked. "Jetta's going to freak at me as it is, I want to be able to tell her we went with good cause."
"Well, it's only logic." Sadie responded. "Think about it. The police settled on me because I had a history with Neal and the people down that way saw me go to see him - I suppose that's fair enough logic and I don't deny I was there. But then, I take a gamble and give a DNA sample. It doesn't match...and everyone else who's tested is a different blood type that isn't compatible with that found at the scene."
Okay, with you so far, but still not seeing any logical answer." Copper responded.
"Well, whoever killed Neal must have had the same blood type as me." Sadie said with a shrug. "Not only that, Copper, but think about it. My hair is streaked through with pink - you did it yourself. The chance of them finding a clump of my hair in Neal's nails without finding a pink strand or two is practically impossible."
"Again, granted." Copper nodded.
"But there's a whole lot of coincidence going on here." Sadie flicked the indicator on, turning left. "A killer who has the same blood type as me...but isn't me. A killer who has the same hair type as me...but isn't me. And...a killer who's DNA profile is similar to mine, but not similar enough to be the same person...do you see where I'm going with this?"
"You think it was your sister?" Copper's eyes became big with shock. Sadie nodded grimly.
"Don't think it, know it." She responded. "Listen, Copper. The night I went there, well, you know I got into a fight with a guy. And I figured my blood probably got onto Neal's body because this jerk was angry and went in search of his money and that was how it happened. In a way it does all tie in with that night and what he said to me, too...but I took note of the wrong thing. He thought I was Georgia, and he wanted me to recompense him for Neal not paying him his money. I assumed it meant Georgie was involved in dealing drugs and I didn't say anything to the cops about the encounter because I didn't want to get her into trouble. But..." She frowned. "I read it wrong. He didn't mean that at all. He meant that Georgie was involved with Neal himself, not the drug dealing."
Copper bit her lip.
"So what do you think happened?"
"I'm going to find that out from Georgie herself, but I wouldn't mind betting that Neal was already dead by the time I got to his house and knocked at the door." Sadie responded. "I didn't see Georgie anywhere about, but it doesn't mean she wasn't inside. I'd lay odds he attacked her for some reason or other, and she lashed out at him - as the cops said - in self defence."
"But wouldn't the cops have tested her blood?"
"I don't know. Evidently not." Sadie shook her head. "From what DS Roden said, they took voluntary samples from people who lived on the estate - probably Simone, since she's always in on the action, and others like her. After all, it was a formality - they'd settled on me as the likely culprit, so the folk at the estate weren't really chased up. The last thing in the world Georgia is going to do is give a sample of her blood in a situation like this. Best guess is the girl is hiding out somewhere. I've got about forty eight hours before they get the second results back on my DNA and start looking elsewhere. I'm going to see if I can help her somehow."
"But how are you going to even find her?" Copper demanded. "And Sadie, if you guys don't have that good a relationship going on, how are you gonna get her to trust you?"
"I have no idea." Sadie responded with a frown. "But Alyssa never gave up on me and I owe it to Georgia to try and help her, too. It's my fault that this happened, at the end of the day. If I'd had a backbone and reported Neal to the police for Marsha's death or for dealing or for anything else he did that I knew about then he could never have hurt my sister to the point where she'd do this. I've messed up big time and I'm going to see if I can't at least begin to put it right."
"If she did it, Sadie, the police will find her."
"I know." Sadie admitted. "Which is why I hope I'll find her first. I want to convince her to turn herself in."
"How will that help her?" Copper looked confused.
"When you went to wake Jetta the other morning, DI Fields put to me that it had been a self defence killing, and pretty much intimated that the police dept would help me out and keep me from a murder charge if I confessed." Sadie responded, taking another turning and pulling onto a ramshackle street. "Of course, I wasn't going to confess to something I didn't do, but it occured to me that if I can get Georgia to trust me, and tell me how it happened, maybe I can convince her to ask the police for help. Otherwise they'll simply catch her and nail her for murder and my kid sister will be doing twenty five to life, no questions asked."
"It's a gamble." Copper pursed her lips. Sadie nodded.
"I know, a huge one." She acknowledged. "But I don't see what else to do. She can't hide forever. They're not so stupid at the police department not to notice the coincidences and start looking closer to home. They'll find her."
"What if she's already fled the area?"
"I hope she hasn't." Sadie sighed. "But I don't think she will have. If I was Georgie I'd be terrified - I'd lock myself away somewhere and pretend I didn't exist. I wouldn't try and run - that would make people suspect me, and anyhow, I doubt anyone does think she could be involved. If they did that witch Simone would've told the police about it. She's always up on every sly rumour she can pin on someone, just to stir things. Look at what she told DI Fields and DS Roden about Marsha...she knows full well that Marsha and I got along okay."
"Well, okay." Copper shrugged. "She's your sister, so I'll go with that. If anyone should know, it's you."
"I don't know about that, but it's a hunch to start with." Sadie responded, pulling the car to a halt and pushing open the driver's door. "Come on. And...well...stick with me, huh? It's not real nice round these parts."
"I can tell that, there's a chill in the air." Copper shivered, pulling her coat around her more closely. "Like people are watching us."
"Probably they are. Probably hoping to rob us." Sadie said matter of factly. "And the car probably won't be much to speak of by the time we get back to it, either, unless I make it very clear who exactly it is who's come to call. Come on, Copper."
"I'm coming, I'm coming." Reluctantly Copper followed her friend across the gravel driveway to the delapidated estate, glancing around her as she did so, for she was sure they were being trailed.
She wasn't far wrong.
A voice came from an open doorway and they turned to see a tall girl watching them, cigarette lazily lit between her fingers and an insolent smile on her face. She was clearly some years older than Sadie, but the Jewel showed no intimidation whatsoever, merely snorting.
"Get lost, Simone." She said flatly. "I ain't come here to see you. I don't have business with you."
"I thought the cops were banging you up." Simone cast her a derisive look.
"Well, you...and the cops...thought wrong." Sadie responded darkly. "I didn't do anything, but I know who began the rumour that I did. I have powerful friends now, Simone, and I can make life very sticky for you if you don't back off. Got the picture?"
"Bah, go to hell." Simone rolled her eyes. "Like I've time for you anyway."
"I came to see Georgia."
"Well, you're too late, braindead." Simone smirked. "She ran home to Daddy already. Ask Grey. He saw her go."
"Oh, she did, did she?" Sadie frowned. Simone shrugged.
"Sorry, honey, guess you're little family reunion has to go on ice." She said with an infuriating smile. "Ciao!"
She disappeared into the squat, banging the door behind her. Copper bit her lip.
"That's the Simone the cops and you keep mentioning, huh?" She said after a moment's pause.
"Yeah. She's been here since she was sixteen and she's the worst kind of smackhead you'll ever meet." Sadie nodded. "Come on. We ain't here to talk to her."
"But she said..."
"Weren't you listening? Nothing that comes out of her mouth is likely to be the truth. Besides, I want to speak to Grey."
"What about the car?"
"Simone will spread the word that I'm back." Sadie shrugged. "And if they know what's good for them they won't lay a finger on it. Not when they know I have friends in high places. I know too much about all of them, Copper. They wouldn't dare."
"They might attack you." Copper looked apprehensive.
"Very possibly." Sadie did not seem concerned. "But that's a risk I gotta take. Besides, that's why I have you with me. They won't take on both of us."
"Are you sure about that?" Copper didn't seem convinced.
"Neal isn't here to hold things together. We'll be fine." Sadie assured her. She frowned, looking thoughtful as she surveyed the estate. "That's Neal's place, over there. I'll bet she's not there, or anywhere near it. Amber didn't tell me where exactly Georgie was hanging out, but there aren't a lot of options. We just have to hunt around a little till we find her, that's all."
"What do you want here?"
A fresh voice interrupted them and the duo swung around to face Grey, his expression unamused and his arms folded across his chest. "Come to flaunt your wealth at us, Sadie? Or are you here to kill your witnesses, huh? Because you ain't wanted round here, now or ever."
"I came to speak to my sister." Sadie told him curtly.
"Why in hell would Georgie want to speak to you?" Grey raised an eyebrow. "I told you. We don't want you here, so get lost, before we make you get lost. Neal is dead because of you...think we're gonna stand that?"
"You never liked Neal." Sadie said scornfully.
"No, but I never killed him, neither." Grey snapped back. "I ain't some psychopath!"
"Nor am I. I didn't kill him any more than you did." Sadie folded her arms. "The police have ruled me out of their investigation...my DNA didn't match the samples they found at the scene. So there, Grey. Quit it with your tough guy talk. I want to see Georgia and I want to see her now."
"Who says I know where she is?"
"Copper, was this the guy you saw with Georgie at the Hotel?" Sadie turned to her companion, who slowly nodded.
"That was him." She agreed. "I remember."
"Well, unless you want to be stung for blackmail, Grey..." Sadie fixed Grey with a pointed look. "I know Georgia sent me that letter, and I know she sold the story to the press about me, too. I want to talk to her, so you damn well better take me to her now."
"You can't prove anything." Grey was unmoved. "And Georgia doesn't want to see you. She hates you. I don't care what the cops say about DNA or nothing. You killed Neal, people saw you here. You ain't nothing but trouble."
"Fine, then we'll go to the police right now." Sadie linked arms in Copper's, turning as if to go. "Tell them everything about the letter and send them down here..."
"You don't scare me!" Grey told her firmly.
"Well, maybe you'd be scared if you knew that I could get you and Georgia into hot water." Sadie's tone changed and she glared at him. "For the last time I want to see my sister."
"I'm not scared of no blackmail charge!"
"How about accessory to murder?"
"What?" Grey stared. "You cracked? What in hell are you talking about?"
"Grey, I didn't come here to cause trouble." Sadie dropped her confrontational tone. "Listen. You and Georgia are going to be in a lot of trouble soon, maybe you are already. I need to speak to her...I came to help."
Grey fixed her with a quizzical gaze, then,
"I don't know anything about any murder." He said at length.
"No, but Georgia knows who did it, I'll bet my life on that." Sadie said quietly. "And you're stopping people from seeing her. You told Simone she went home to Dad - did you tell the police that, too?"
"Cops ain't interested in Georgie, she's done nothing." Grey snapped.
"Well, I know and you know that she didn't leave here at all." Sadie responded. "So if you don't mind, I'd like to speak to her."
Grey sighed, but at length, he shrugged.
"You cause trouble and I'll do you over." He told her darkly, leading the way across the estate to one of the derelict blocks of flats. "Got it?"
"You ain't never hit a girl in your life. I'd be damn surprised if you started now." Sadie told him bluntly. "Copper, you with us here?"
"Yeah, I'm here." Copper nodded, though her discomfort was clear in her brown eyes. "I'm coming."
In silence they made their way round the back of the buildings till they came to a door, half hidden by rubble and other junk. Grey pushed it open, then paused.
"Are you sure you should be wearing your posh pretty clothes in a place like this?" he asked, sarcasm clear in his tone. "Hate to ruin your image."
"Oh, quit it. I'm on your side." Sadie snapped. "Just get on with it, will you?"
Grey shrugged, but obediently led them inside the building, up a flight of unsteady stairs to the second floor. Once there, he pushed open the door of one of the rooms, slipping inside. With one accord, and not without misgivings, the two musicians followed him, allowing the door to swing shut behind them.
"George?" He called. "George, get out here!"
"What?" A voice came back from another room along the narrow hallway.
"I mean it, George."
"I told you to tell the others I'd gone home! I don't want any hassle!"
"I know you did, but you got hassle anyhow." Grey yelled back. "Georgie, get your backside out here now!"
"Dammit, Grey, what now?"
The door of the room opened and a slim figure stepped into the corridor, stopping dead as she saw who was there. Colour drained from her face, and she took a step backwards.
"What are you doing here?" She whispered. "What...what do you want? Grey..."
"I need to talk to you." Sadie ignored her sister's reticence. "About Neal."