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He pointed towards the windows. ’ He stared at Jack, weighing up whether to answer or not. ‘The council ruined this place,’ he said, eventually. ’ ‘Because they turned it into a dumping ground,’ he said. ’ ‘More than twenty years,’ he said. ’ He shrugged. ‘I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem like people want to work anymore. The young girls get a house when they get pregnant, but the father never moves in. ’ ‘I see people heading out to work,’ Jack said. ’ ‘The kids,’ he said. ‘They hang around here all evening, circling customers on their bikes, asking people to buy their booze and fags for them, because I know most are too young.

Laura had thrown herself back into her career, and it seemed they saw each other only briefly in the house, pit-stops between her shifts. She complained that he was showing no commitment, that he was stalling about the wedding, but it was more that they didn’t have the time to talk about it. Laura wanted it low-key, because she had been married before, a marriage that produced a son, Bobby, the main brightness in their lives, eight years old now. Both of Jack’s parents were dead and so he had no one to offend by keeping it small, but it felt like it wasn’t the same big deal for her, because Laura had already had the big white wedding with all the trimmings.

Yes,’ she said. ‘The police called earlier and told me to expect press visits. ’ ‘For a walk,’ she said. ’ Jack couldn’t respond to that. ’ he said instead. Her chin puckered and her hand shot to her eyes, to wipe away the tears. ‘None at all,’ she said, her voice breaking. ’ She wiped her eyes. ‘I’m sorry for swearing,’ she said, her voice softer now, ‘but that’s what he is. Can you imagine what it is like to watch your daughter leave the house and never return? It had seemed like just another day.

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