Something Hidden (Andrew Hunter #2)@Kerry Wilkinson Page 0,1

sideways at the clock on the wall above him: 11.47. He was presumably eyeing a nice chunky sale before midday.

Wendy removed her hand from Owen’s and pointed at the cabinet in front of her. ‘I’m not really sure what I’m looking for. We’ve not got loads of money but I don’t want something big anyway . . .’

Sampson nodded knowingly. ‘Diamonds are my speciality. I’ve got personal contacts in Botswana. They mine things directly for this shop. I don’t have to deal with middlemen, so you won’t find better prices anywhere. Do you mind if I ask how much you’re looking to spend . . . ?’

Botswana? There was sales spiel and there was taking the piss – this really walked the line. Next, he’d be telling them about a gold-mining expedition to the mountains of South America – or wherever it was gold came from. Owen had no idea.

Sampson tailed off, maintaining eye contact with Wendy, which was probably best considering Owen was staring at his shoes. This was the question he really didn’t want to hear. He hoped for something ending in ‘hundred’, not ‘thousand’. It was his own fault: Wendy had been the sensible one, saying that the ring didn’t matter and it was all about the commitment to each other; he’d been the one insisting that he could afford whatever she might want and that she should pick something she really liked.

Wendy pointed towards a ring on the end of the row, with a sparkling rock that was, thankfully, small. ‘I think I’d prefer something understated, like that one.’

Thank God.

Seven hundred quid: Owen could just about afford that. All those Saturday morning overtime shifts at the call centre were finally going to seem worth it. He hated that bloody job but it was a means to this end. All those people telling him to piss off meant he could actually afford something his girlfriend . . . no, fiancée . . . wanted.

The truth was that Wendy knew what they could afford and, despite Owen’s bravado at the time of wanting to get the ‘right’ ring, she wasn’t interested in expensive things anyway. She’d never gone for designer dresses or shoes, preferring something from the vintage shop on Oxford Road that was wedged between a run-down pub and a tanning place. They were both practical, sensible people, knowing the engagement had to be a long one and that finding somewhere to live where they were happy was more important than blowing thousands on a lavish ceremony they’d spend a decade paying for. Perhaps that would mean leaving Manchester? This was the city where they’d met at university but now they were in the real world and had to find proper jobs.

Distressingly, they were actually adults.

Owen’s thoughts drifted as Sampson unlocked the cabinet and began banging on about ‘white gold’. Whatever, mate. You do your thing, keep it to around seven hundred, make Wendy smile, and all’s right with the world.

Owen began peering around, taking in the row of trophies on the wall and trying to figure out what the shop smelled of. It reminded him of when he’d cleaned out the attic at his parents’ house a few years ago: dusty and . . . old. This place must have been here for years.

He wondered what they should do after picking a ring. Go out to celebrate? In typical understated fashion, they could go to the pub on the corner close to their flat. It’d be showing football via a dodgy satellite hook-up on a Saturday afternoon – a definite bonus – plus it was where he and Wendy first met, meaning he even had an excuse to suggest it. Of course, as soon as they sat down to eat and the match came on, she’d realise his slightly ulterior motive but he would’ve just spent a small fortune on an engagement ring, so should be able to get away with it.

Hmmm . . .

Oh, balls to the football. He was engaged and happy. They could go home and make their own entertainment.

As Owen grinned to himself, imagining exactly what entertainment they could come up with, there was a howling squeal of car tyres from the front of the shop. He turned in time to see the front door being rammed inwards as the silhouette of a figure burst through, sending the overhead bell into tinkling overdrive.

Suddenly, the room was spinning. Another man slammed through the door, all dark jacket, jeans and balaclava. Then there was