Between Two Evils

Eva Dolan

The following is an exclusive excerpt from Between Two Evils, by Eva Dolan. When a young doctor is found brutally murdered in Cambridgeshire. As the physician to an all-female detention center dealing with a scandal, perhaps his murder means he was involved. But as Detective Sergeant Ferreira and Detective Inspector Zigic attempt to recreate the events that could have led to his murder, they run into more than they could have expected.

Ferreira was sitting on the bonnet of his car, rolling a cigarette, when Zigic emerged from number 4, and it took him a few minutes further to extricate himself from Ainsworth’s neighbour and his accomplice of a cat, which kept winding between his feet in a figure of eight. He assured the man that they would be in touch if there was anything else they needed from him. Explained once more the numbers on the card he’d handed over and that he didn’t need to worry about the email address if he wasn’t very good with his computer, just ring.

He half expected to be physically dragged back inside but made it up the short front path and through the freshly painted gate, feeling a twinge of sadness in his chest for the nice old man with the sharp eyes but the faltering hearing.

‘Any good gossip from the shop?’ he asked Ferreira as he sat down next to her.

‘Ainsworth’s a doctor at the detention centre.’ She handed over his water. ‘Half the village work up there, apparently. And we’ve got an ongoing protest situation that’s verging on harassment of workers. Leaflet campaigns, public shaming. Probably not a million miles off the mark though, given what we know about how those places operate.’

Roughly the same as he’d just been told.

Article continues below

There was irritation in Ferreira’s voice but an unmistakable edge of excitement too. He could see it lifting her as she lit her cigarette, could almost hear the cogs turning behind her sun- glasses.

He was already envisioning the pressure he was going to come under from Riggott and all the many layers above and beyond him. Pressures Ferreira only felt at one reserve, protected from them by her rank because he had never been the kind of DI who passed his beatings down the chain of command. As bad as they’d been on other cases, he knew the potential here was significantly worse.

Long Fleet was operated by Securitect. The same company who were angling to provide Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s emergency call services, their increasing roster of civilian support staff and, for all he knew, the sandwiches in the vending machines that had replaced their canteen a few months ago.

If Joshua Ainsworth’s murder touched at all on his job at Long Fleet, they were going to be tiptoeing around landmines trying to investigate it.

It looked personal though. No sign of forced entry, Ainsworth killed in his living room as he ate his dinner, judging by the pizza box and the spilt bottle of red wine. Perhaps killed by the person he’d shared the meal with or why hadn’t they tried to intervene? Or reported his murder right away.

Article continues below

‘I think we need to speak to the protestors,’ Ferreira said.

‘There were a couple of them kicking off in the shop when I went in. I dunno,’ she shrugged. ‘They had that air, you know?’

‘It looks like a fairly peaceful protest,’ Zigic said hopefully.

‘Then we can disregard them quickly.’

‘We can’t just pull them all in for questioning, not without grounds.’

‘Isn’t the harassment grounds enough?’

‘It would be if we knew who was behind it,’ he told her.

‘We’ll never find out if we don’t speak to them.’ He sighed, hearing the tease in her voice.

‘How about we take their number plates?’ she suggested.

‘Get their names, check if there are any known agitators involved, and then we can approach and see what kind of reac- tion we get?’

‘Set Parr on it.’

She called the DC over and passed on Zigic’s fresh orders, told him to be discreet.

Zigic gestured at the empty cottage with its curtains all drawn, wanting to change the subject. ‘Nobody in at eight. Holiday let.’

‘Here?’ Ferreira asked, incredulous. ‘Who’d come on holiday here?’

‘It’s pretty, I guess. Quiet.’

‘Not this weekend.’

‘No.’ He picked at his shirt, already starting to stick to his back. ‘And someone was staying there, so we’ll need to track them down.’

‘Number four was chatty then.’ Ferreira glanced at the house.

‘He’s still in the window.’

‘I got the impression he’s a bit lonely.’ The old cat and the inte- rior like a time capsule, he brushed the thought aside. ‘Ainsworth’s been away on holiday too. Just got back Wednesday. But he’d been off work a few weeks before that too. Pottering around the house, his neighbour said.’

‘Lost his job, do you think?’

Zigic shrugged. ‘Or he’d banked a load of holiday time and decided to take it while the weather was good.’

‘Did he hear anything?’

‘No, nothing out of the ordinary but his hearing isn’t up to much, so that doesn’t mean they didn’t hear something on the other side,’ Zigic said. ‘Ainsworth was a considerate neighbour, he reckoned. No loud music, no midnight DIY sessions. Not much in the way of visitors.’

‘Girlfriend?’ Ferreira asked. ‘Boyfriend?’

‘A woman occasionally, couldn’t give me a description beyond “very elegant looking, she is”. Said he went out on his bike a lot in the evenings. It sounds like he was a bit of a loner.’

‘Not much to do of an evening in a place like this,’ Ferreira said. ‘Maybe we should ask at the pub.’

‘Bit early for drinks,’ he teased.

They waited as an ambulance arrived to take away Joshua

Ainsworth’s body, and a few minutes later one of Jenkins’s assistants gave them the all clear to enter the house. They found her still in the living room, standing over the remains of the table, making notes. With Ainsworth’s body gone Zigic picked out the glimmer of the second wine glass, which must have shattered under the weight of him as he fell. He winced at the thought, even though a few shards of glass in the back was a minor injury compared to the extensive damage that had been done to his face and head.

Automatically he and Ferreira had moved closer to the table, both picking their way carefully through the room, avoiding the areas that Jenkins and her team had marked up on the floor, pieces of evidence corralled and colour-coded, numbered and logged.

‘Okay, so …’ Jenkins said, in business mode now, voice lower and more stern, eyes focused. ‘Very preliminary and pre- pare yourself for a change when we’ve done the real heavy lifting, but right now it looks like Mr Ainsworth – that’s your victim –’

‘We’ve spoken to the neighbour already,’ Zigic told her. ‘Got the ID.’

‘So, early thinking on the murder weapon is this table leg right here.’

Jenkins pointed to a piece of dark wood, lying where it had been dropped a metre from the table. It was fairly slim but sub- stantial enough, Zigic thought, knowing how fragile the human skull was, especially around the temple.

‘Multiple blows,’ she said. ‘Front on.’

‘Once he was down?’ Ferreira asked.

‘You’ll need to wait for the PM for that. But – and don’t you dare quote me – judging by the severity of his injuries, I’m guess- ing he was put down in the initial scuffle.’ Jenkins took half a step forward, making a shoving motion with her free hand. ‘That’s when the table broke – looked smart enough but it was not well made. Then once he’s down, your killer retrieved the leg and beat him to death with it.’

‘Our assailant didn’t want him getting to his feet again,’ Zigic said, turning towards the spray of blood across the carpet and up the sofa. ‘They made a decision to put him down for good.’

‘Frenzied?’ Ferreira asked.

‘In the grey area,’ Jenkins said.

Zigic looked at the pizza box, still in situ, one slice left in it. ‘They’re in the middle of a meal and suddenly this hap- pens?’

‘Bit more than an argument over the last slice of pizza, surely?’ Ferreira said. ‘The neighbour mentioned a woman visiting. Does this look like something a woman could do? It would have taken a lot of strength to put him through the table.’

‘We found a pair of knickers down between the sofa cushions,’ Jenkins told them. ‘Might have been there months but combined with the used condom in the bin and the lipstick on the wine glass, I’d say you’re definitely looking for a female dinner com- panion.’

‘Fingerprints off her glass?’

‘And DNA, yes. Likely from the condom too. Find her and you’ll have no problem proving she was here if she tries to deny it.’

Zigic’s eyes had drifted back to the table leg, imagining the heft of it against his own palm, the force required to swing it over and over again, hitting bone so hard the wood was dented. ‘Do we really think a woman could have done this, though?’

‘Isn’t he chivalrous?’ Jenkins said, looking at Ferreira.

‘Or a little bit sexist?’

‘I’m only saying, because Ainsworth must have fallen with a fair degree of force to break the table.’

‘We could get hold of a replica,’ Ferreira suggested. ‘Then I’ll throw you at it and we can see if it breaks.’

They laughed at him and he shook his head. ‘Alright, forget it. The dinner companion is our prime suspect then.’

‘Any fibres?’ Ferreira asked, glancing around herself at the light-coloured carpet. ‘Footprints?’

‘We have a few footprints, which the killer has obviously tried to scuff away,’ Jenkins said, indicating the locations she’d marked out. ‘We probably won’t get a complete impression but I’ll be able to give you an idea of size, for what it’s worth.’ She cocked her head. ‘I can’t really give you anything more right now, sorry.’

‘What about his phone?’ Ferreira asked.

‘No sign,’ Jenkins said regretfully. ‘No tablet or laptop either. We found chargers but not the devices that correspond to them, so either this was a particularly violent robbery or your killer knows there’s incriminating information on them and has had them away.’

Ferreira swore under her breath.

‘We did find his wallet though.’


‘Cards and cash, yes,’ she said. ‘Kind of undermines the rob- bery theory but tech’s easier to fence than cards and higher value, so …’

‘You’ve been a great help, Kate,’ Zigic said. ‘Is it okay if we have a look around the rest of the house?’

She nodded. ‘If you’re careful. We can’t find any sign of activity beyond the living room though.’

Ferreira went upstairs, he stayed down. Headed into the kitchen that bore the traces of an initial survey by the forensics’ team, but beyond that it was clean and tidy and told him nothing about Josh Ainsworth, except that he kept his juicer on the work- top and a lot of fruit and veg in his fridge.

He stood in the middle of the room looking out at the back garden, which was pretty but overgrown and yellowing around the edges from the heatwave. Somewhere beyond its far boundary, across a few fields, Long Fleet stood behind high walls and spiked wire. He wondered if Ainsworth had moved here with the job or if it had been a convenient option when he needed one.

Ferreira shouted to him from upstairs and he went to find her. She was standing in the doorway of a cramped box room, which had been turned into an office containing a small white desk under the window and a large leather chair. Shelves fitted in wherever they would go, filled with box files and binders, stacks of books and pots of pens.

‘Look at this.’

She directed him in, to a blue box file opened out across the desk.

‘Is this how you found it?’ he asked.

‘It’s all been photographed already, don’t worry,’ she said. ‘I saw this one on the shelf and thought it might be interesting. Seriously, look at it.’

He went to the desk. Inside the box file were dozens of leaflets about the Immigration Removal Centre: photographs of women on the covers, presumably inmates, the dates of their incarceration, pleas for their release. One about the suicide rate in Long Fleet, another that was fronted with a list of abuses, an image of a guard with his face fuzzed out. Maybe a stock photo, but possibly not.

‘Why was Ainsworth collecting these?’ Zigic asked.

She shrugged. ‘Maybe he was getting ready to bring harassment charges. This is how you go about it, right? Collect the evidence, build your case, then contact a solicitor.’

‘But he’d have to know who was responsible for them.’

‘Maybe it wasn’t the protestors then,’ she said, leaning against the door. ‘Maybe he was going to put the harassment on Long Fleet somehow.’

‘Mel, come on,’ he said, incredulous. ‘There are theories and then there’s just mad speculation.’

‘It’s not mad speculation to suggest he might have held Long Fleet responsible for drawing down this harassment on him, is it?’

Zigic murmured without agreeing.

‘He was off work, wasn’t he?’ she said. ‘And we don’t know why.’

Ferreira came over to the desk and carefully removed a leaflet that looked different to all the others, more ersatz in style, delib- erately punky, and when she opened it he saw that this one wasn’t decrying the general regime at Long Fleet, it was directly accusing the medical staff of collusion, addressing Ainsworth by name.

‘“You took a Hippocratic oath, Dr Ainsworth. And now you’re cleaning up after the rapists and murderers of an immoral immigration system that criminalises victims.”’

‘You think this might be the kind of thing that you’d need a holiday from?’ Ferreira asked.

Zigic sifted through the box, found another one in the same distinctive style. A flyer this time.

‘“How many abortions have you performed in there, Dr Ainsworth? How many suicides have you covered up? The blood of innocent women is on your hands.”’

He let out a slow and careful breath, seeing his fears about the impact of this case beginning to solidify.

‘It might not be relevant,’ he said hopefully.

‘Or it might be why he wound up with his head smashed to bits on his living room floor.’


From Between Two Evils by Eva Dolan. Used with the permission of the publisher, Bloomsbury (Raven imprint). Copyright © 2020 by Eva Dolan.

More Story
5 Psychological Thrillers You Should Read This May Oh, hi, it’s me again, with your months’ worth of psychological thrillers. I want to ask you if this is the kind of reading...

Support CrimeReads - Become a Member

CrimeReads needs your help. The mystery world is vast, and we need your support to cover it the way it deserves. With your contribution, you'll gain access to exclusive newsletters, editors' recommendations, early book giveaways, and our new "Well, Here's to Crime" tote bag.

Become a member for as low as $5/month