The day she diedMornings can be kind of cloudy. Every night I tell myself I’m not going to open any wine. Still, mornings can be kind of cloudy. Quick shower, mug of tea and out the door in time for work. I walk unless it’s really hammering down which – in Dumfries – is quite often.

Work’s good. My life’s not what I thought it would be when I was a child drawing pictures of the house with the four windows and me in a pink dress and one of those cone hats with the veil hanging off it, but work’s okay, especially if it’s Dot’s shift. She brings scones and mothers me. If it’s Steve he brings nothing and he reads the depressing bits out of the newspaper too.

And it’s nice to be the boss. I’m not the big boss – that’s Father Tommy up at the admin offices, although he would say the big boss is higher up even than that. Not that he shoehorns it in all that much – for a priest – and if I remind him that God isn’t a checkbook signatory he just laughs at me.

But I’m the manager, doing God’s work every day except Thursday, handing out free clothes and shoes to the destitute and desperate of this scruffy wee town. And not like Sister Avril does it, either. She could turn the milk with the look on her face if likes of anyone comes in with more than two kids (or more than one tattoo).

We sort the donations every morning. Clean and practical (hardly any), practical but needing a wash (in the washing machine we bought with the marathon money), impractical but posh enough to bung on eBay (more and more of this all the time and I’m getting dead good at the descriptions too – vintage, retro, classic, timeless; I never knew there were so many words for old clothes).

Then there’s the rest of it. We’re the Dumfries Free Clothing Project, with a massive clue in the name, and still we get toasters and plant pots and lampshades left outside the front door when we’re closed. Once, someone jammed a headboard right into the doorway. Dot’s kind – she said they were trying to make sure it didn’t get damp if the rain came on, since it was one of those padded velvety ones. But it was wedged right in and we had to call a joiner to saw through it before we could open up for the day.

So we’ve got tons of new stuff – baby clothes (Dot calls them Layette) and undies (Dot calls them small things) – bought with the eBay money and we set it all out as nice as we can, like a proper shop. Still, by the end of eight hours spent with people who’re having the worst day of their life – and sometimes for the thousandth day running – you can get quite stressed out sometimes.

I can anyway. Dot puts on the coat that matches her shoes – navy and navy, wine and wine – and the scarf in toning shades that flatter, and goes back to Drew and the Corgi and the bungalow. Steve goes to his Open University night class and for yet another hour of sociology and macro-political perspectives on nano-political choices in the blah blah blah.

Me? I go to Marks and Spencer’s foodhall, where everything costs a bomb but I never meet any of the clients (because everything costs a bomb) and try not to buy any wine, or think about the past, or the future or – basically – anything. Then I get a DVD at the library and I go home and I shut the door behind me and high five myself in the hall mirror for surviving another one.

I’ve been doing it for nearly four years now. I thought I’d be doing it for at least four more. But then came the day she died. And that changed everything.


You can read more about Jessie in The Day She Died, published by Midnight Ink. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

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Meet the author
Catriona is the author of the Dandy Gilver detective stories set in Scotland in the 1920s. The series has won a Macavity, a Left Coast Crime award and an Agatha.

catriona Last year she began a new strand of contemporary stand-alones. The first – AS SHE LEFT IT – was one of Kirkus’s top 20 mystery/thrillers of 2013 and was shortlisted for the Calamari award at Left Coast Crime Monterey. THE DAY SHE DIED is published by Midnight Ink on the 8th of May 2014 and has already been called “a tour de force, a creepy psychological thriller that will leave you breathless.” (Kirkus starred review)

Catriona was born in Scotland but moved to northern California in 2010. In previous lives, she worked as an incompetent bank clerk, a passable library assistant and a useless and miserable university professor but is now a full-time writer, rookie warm-climate gardener, good plain cook, scratch baker, dumpster-diver-extraordinaire and the current vice president of Sisters in Crime.

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