On the morning of the accident, Carly had forgotten to set the alarm and overslept. She woke with a bad hangover, a damp dog crushing her and the demented pounding of drums and cymbals coming from her son's bedroom. To add to her gloom, it was pelting with rain outside.
She lay still for a moment, gathering her thoughts. She had a chiropody appointment for a painful corn and a client she loathed would be in her office in just over two hours. It was going to be one of those days, she had the feeling, when things just kept on getting worse. Like the drumming.
'Tyler!' she yelled. 'For Christ's sake, stop that. Are you ready?'
Otis leapt off the bed and began barking furiously at his reflection in the mirror on the wall.
The drumming fell silent.
She staggered to the bathroom, found the paracetamols and gulped two down. I am so not a good example to my son, she thought. I'm not even a good example to my dog.
As if on cue, Otis padded into the bathroom, holding his lead in his mouth expectantly.
'What's for breakfast, Mum?' Tyler called out.
She stared at herself in the bathroom mirror. Mercifully, most of her forty-one-year-old - and this morning going on 241-year-old - face was shrouded in a tangle of blonde hair that looked, at this moment, like matted straw.
'Arsenic!' she shouted back, her throat raw from too many cigarettes last night. 'Laced with cyanide and rat poison.'
Otis stamped his paw on the bathroom tiles.
'Sorry, no walkies. Not this morning. Later. OK?'
'I had that yesterday!' Tyler shouted back.
'Well, it didn't sodding work, did it?'
She switched on the shower, waited for it to warm up, then stepped inside.
DEAD MAN'S GRIP. Copyright © 2011 by Really Scary Books/Peter James. All rights reserved. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.