Deadly by Design
By Carina Axelsson
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Excerpt from Model Undercover: London:
Tallulah was flustered, and color had risen to her cheeks. I watched as she stood up suddenly. A look of frustration flashed across her face, and her eyes narrowed in anger as she crossed and uncrossed her arms. “I’m sure the images on this flash drive, our flat being searched, and what’s happened to my brother are related—I’m sure of it! I want to find who has done this! I want to find the person responsible for hurting my brother!” She stopped and breathed deeply, then fiddled with her fingernails in silence.
I turned back to my laptop and flicked through the images. “Have you any idea why your brother named the file ‘Close-up’? I haven’t seen any close-ups on the stick at all.”
“I hadn’t thought about that, but it’s typical Gavin,” Tallulah said as she bent over my shoulder to look at the screen. “He tends to give his files slightly coded names. They always have something to do with the content of the file, but usually the connection is only obvious to him. I remember once looking at a bunch of photos he was editing. They were all on a file labeled ‘Elle,’ so I thought they were something he’d shot for Elle magazine. But, no, they were photos he’d taken for some Japanese magazine editorial inspired by the actor Elle Fanning.”
After a few moments, I heard Tallulah move behind me again. It sounded as if she was looking through her handbag. I turned around just as she pulled out a phone and offered it to me. “It’s Gavin’s,” she explained. “Surprisingly enough, the attacker didn’t take it. Gavin had it zipped up in an inside pocket of his jacket, so I guess they didn’t notice it. Anyway, I thought you might find it useful. I’ve had a look and couldn’t see anything suspicious, but maybe you’ll have a better idea of what to look for.”
I took the phone and asked Tallulah for the code.
“Oh yeah.” Her mouth broke into the first semblance of a smile I’d seen since we’d shaken hands. “That might help… I have it written down somewhere. Hang on.” She rummaged in her tiny bag again. “Oh, I don’t have it on me right now, but I’ll look it up as soon as I’m back home and send it to you. Luckily I know where he keeps his passwords.”
“Fine,” I said.
“So, Axelle,” she said as she watched me, “you will take on this case, won’t you?”
I nodded slowly. “Yes. Yes, I will…but we won’t have much time.”
Tallulah raised her eyebrows.
“Remember I asked you when your brother is expected to regain consciousness?”
She nodded. “Well, I imagine whoever put him in the hospital will still want to get their hands on this stick. Unless they found what they wanted on the memory card in Gavin’s camera.”
Tallulah shook her head. “He changed memory cards for every job. I even saw him put a new one in on Sunday morning. Whoever has the camera won’t have found much—if anything.” “
And they didn’t find anything in your flat, so I reckon the only option they have now is to threaten Gavin into handing the stick over the first chance they get.”
“I hadn’t thought of that.” Tallulah’s voice sounded distressed, and she started picking at her nails again.
I watched her for a moment before saying, “There’s another scenario we have to consider too…”
“Gavin probably got a good look at his attacker, right?”
“Well, it might not just be the stick the attacker’s looking for now.”
Tallulah didn’t say anything, but she stopped picking her nails and stared at me.
“They’ll also want to stop Gavin from identifying them…”
“By silencing him for good.”
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