'You sure about this?' Jason asked, shielding his eyes from the sodium glare of the streetlamp as he peered up at the dark façade of the house in Park Grove, Wood Green. It was as quiet as a churchyard, no movement or glimmer of light anywhere in the dark, empty windows above, or behind the tightly drawn curtains on the ground floor and basement. They were late. Maybe Liam Betts had already gone.
'It'll be all right,' Eve said softly. 'Trust me. You said the info was good. He's probably hiding out around the back.'
He could just make out the contours of her lovely face in the half-light. Whenever he looked at her, he felt weak. He wished suddenly he had never told her about Liam Betts, or at least not waited until the very last minute. But he'd been dithering, some little voice in his head telling him it wasn't a good idea. Even now, it didn't feel right. He'd give anything to be back at her flat, in bed with her, instead of hanging around in a dank, muddy garden in North London on a wild goose chase. But he knew she wouldn't let go of it that easily. She'd been wanting to find Liam Betts for weeks. It was all she seemed to care about.
He sighed and gave her a mock salute. 'Yes, ma'am.'
She rewarded him with one of her rare smiles and kissed him lightly on the lips. The touch was electric. He reached for her, but she pulled away.
She was still smiling, but despair filled him. There would be no later, although he hadn't yet summoned up the courage to tell her. He had to get home to his wife 'no excuses this time' and he was already nearly two hours late. It was his wedding anniversary, for the little that was worth. Not that Eve would mind if he had to go home. She never did, which was part of the problem. He wondered what she really felt, but knew better than to ask. He was sure he wouldn't like the answer and pushed the thought away to the darkest recesses of his mind, where so many uncomfortable things lurked. Gazing at her, he felt like a drowning man.
She was still smiling at him. 'Come on. Hopefully this won't take long.'
She led the way, picking her way through the rubbish and builders' debris that littered the ground, and up the steps to the front door. She studied the row of bells for a moment.
'10B must be around the back,' she said, coming down the stairs again.
'Let me go first,' he said. 'In case he gives us any trouble.'
'He won't. Liam's a pussycat. He won't mind talking to me.'
'Pussycats can change their spots.'
'Not this one. He'll do anything for me.'
Not true, he wanted to remind her. As she well knew, Liam Betts had recently made himself scarce deliberately. Maybe he thought his cover was blown and had decided to leave town.
Eve crouched down and peered in through the grubby basement window. 'There's a crack of light under the door. Someone's definitely in there. Let's try around the back.'
The concrete path was slick from the recent rain and Jason nearly slipped as he followed it around to the side of the house. A tall wooden gate blocked the path, with barbed wire stretched above it. The gate appeared to be locked and he gave it a shove with his shoulder, but it still didn't move. She was at his side and he caught the smell of her perfume on the air. He wanted to close his eyes, bury his face in her soft, dark hair and lose himself again with her. It was all he could think about.
'There's got to be an entrance through there,' she said quietly.
It was clear, whatever the difficulty, she was not going to give up. 'I'll see if I can open it from the other side.'
Balancing precariously on a dustbin, he climbed up onto the damp wall that bordered the house, and edged along a few feet, before dropping down onto the path on the far side. Shielded from the light of the street, he couldn't make out anything. The narrow passageway smelled of damp and mould. As he stepped forwards into the blackness, he tripped over something that made a metallic clang on the concrete.
'Are you OK?' she whispered, from the other side of the gate.
'Yes. I just can't see.'