“What is she like? What? I keep thinking about David Angus.”
“Oh so did I. On that ledge next to her, I was supposed to save her life and I thought about David Angus. And Scott Merriman. And Amy Sudden. And God knows, maybe others. I looked at her hair and her hands and her feet, and that is what I thought about. Those children.”
“You’ll get a commendation.”
“Are you going up there to charge her?”
“Interview. No evidence for us to charge yet. North Riding have got it open and shut on the little girl but there’s a long way to go on the rest. We’ll get her as well though, and when we do I want to be there. I want to nail her to the bloody floor.”
Cat looked across at him. She had rarely heard him sound so angry. There was something in him that was new, a bitterness, an edge he had either only recently acquired, or managed to conceal until now. She had always thought she knew him as well as she knew herself—certainly better than she knew Chris, who was still capable of startling and wrong-footing her.
Simon caught her eye. “It got to you too,” he said. “Don’t pretend.”
“Yes. David Angus—that got to me. Every time I looked at Sam. It never left me, all day, every day. And it still hasn’t quite sunk in that the person who abducted and murdered these children—children like Sam—is a woman. I’m a woman. I have no take on it at all. I’d have said it would never happen.”
“Most people would agree with you.”
“I wonder if we’re changing. Women. Girls are behaving like boys. They have male aggressions and male attitudes, they are drinking like men, they even fight as readily as men, sometimes more so.”
“Every Saturday night in Bevham city centre.”
“I’ve been trying to teach Hannah to be feisty, to have opinions and stand up for them, to think independently … maybe I’m doing the wrong thing altogether.”
“I wouldn’t worry. She’s got a very girly pink bedroom.”
“When I was training, I was one of three women among seventeen men in my year. If Hannah went into medicine, she would find it the other way round.”
“Would that be a problem?”
“No, of course not. But it demands a big change in attitude. Men’s attitude, principally.”
“I’m not sure Ed Sleightholme fits your new pattern … she’s thirty-eight. A loner. I don’t know what makes her tick but I doubt if it has anything to do with the new social order.”
“What has it to do with?”
“You tell me.”
“I’m not a shrink.”
“Don’t have to be. Think back … not long ago, you got to know a psychopath quite well … saw how he operated.”
Cat shook her head. “Don’t.” She would not have that dark shadow fall across the sunlit afternoon.
“OK, but the point is, a psychopathic killer is a psychopathic killer … a loner, without the ability to form normal relationships, a fantasist, someone without a conscience, someone whose guiding principle is self-gratification, at any cost. I think it’s a strangely sexless condition.”
“Can’t be. There’d be equal numbers of men and women psychopathic killers and there aren’t. I couldn’t name half a dozen women who have killed in that way.”
Simon was silent, twisting the stem of his glass round and round between his fingers. “What about a woman taking someone hostage … or holding them under threat?” he asked after a moment.
“It’s been done … guerrillas … women soldiers. You get female religious militants, female suicide bombers.”
He shook his head. “I don’t mean in war.”
“I can see it in some extreme domestic situation … marital crisis. Someone pushed to the edge. It’s very unusual though, isn’t it?”
“Uniform see a bit of it. Introduce booze and drugs and it escalates.”
“What made you bring up domestic hostages?”
“Yes. I heard on the church grapevine. You don’t expect stray lunatics to wander into English cathedrals.”
“Not sure he is a lunatic. His wife died. He wanted revenge on God, and Jane Fitzroy was the next best thing. She’s too Christian by half. Not pressing charges out of some sort of misplaced charitableness.”
“Well, if he’s in distress—”
“So are a lot of people.”
“Not sure I like the new tough-talking DCI.”
“Get used to him.”
Cat looked sideways at her brother. Then she laughed. “Presumably your chap’s being referred?”
“No one to refer. He disappeared. We’d no reason to hold him.”
“I wonder if Jane’s registered with us. Wonder if he is, come to that. Local?”
“Yep. Those yuppie conversions near the canal.”
“Max Jameson! Oh my God, I should have realised. His wife died … Lizzie. Beautiful, lovely Lizzie Jameson. She had variant CJD. First case I’ve had and I hope it’s the last. I need to see him.”
“I’m his doctor, Si … what’s eating you?”
“You’re too conscientious, that’s what. If he needs you he’ll make an appointment.”
Cat snorted. “Finish the bottle,” she said, making for the house. “Might have a mellowing effect.”
The metal grille slid back. The eyes gleamed through. She shrank back but they saw her. They saw her wherever she was in the cell. She had tried lying flat on the floor. They saw her. They came every fifteen minutes. Grille open. Eyes. The eyes swivelled. Focused. Saw her. Stared for twenty seconds. The grille closed again.
She knew what they were waiting for. Hoping for? Make their life easier, wouldn’t it? Only she wasn’t a quitter and killing yourself was quitting. Besides, there wasn’t any way. No sheets. Nothing sharp. Nothing to swallow. The window was right up near to the ceiling. Bars on that too. She couldn’t tell if it was day or night.
She thought a lot about Kyra. They used to make pancakes. Buns. Paper dolls in a row cut out of an old gas bill. She’d never touch Kyra. Kyra was outside the loop. She’d planned to take Kyra to the sea. A caravan. They’d have had a great time, and her mother would have been glad to see the back of her for a week.
She thought a lot about Kyra.
Otherwise she tried not to think of anything. She did word games in her head. Mental arithmetic. She was good at that. She had a smart brain. Wired up right, a teacher had said once. She did spelling backwards, very fast.
But when she slept she lost control and then she was back on the cliff ledge and the sea was waiting for her, leaping up now and then to try and get her, a tiger at the bars of a cage. It was green, like bile. The policeman on the ledge tried to push her into the water and in her dream she fought him, bit into his wrists until she drew blood, and then shoved him spinning down and down. He had made her mad, bloody superior git.
She hadn’t meant to leave the girl. The girl was unfinished business and she couldn’t stand that, it drove her mad, any of it left unfinished, hanging, not cut off. She liked to cut each one off, snip, finished. A clean end. She felt as if worms were writhing in her gut when she thought of it, not finished, not clean, not cut off. It was like an itch she couldn’t scratch, one right inside where she couldn’t reach, an itch in her liver or her gut. Nothing would stop it. That was his fault. Theirs. Men.
She woke up. The door banged open. Keys.
The tray went down on the table with a crash. Sausages smeared in orange beans. A doughnut. Water.
She stared at the man. At the keys.
She kicked the tray and it went over, orange beans swilling with water all over the floor. He cursed.
She was pleased. She didn’t speak to them, none of them. Said her name, that was it. Didn’t answer questions, didn’t tell them what she was thinking. Kept quiet. She could do that for ever.
Good, she thought, when they gave up and left her alone. Good girl. She smacked her fist into the opposite palm. Good. It stopped the worms writhing in her gut. For a bit.
She wished she hadn’t kicked the water over. She got thirsty. It was dry here, dry air, stale.
She began to kick her legs against the bench hard. It brought an image to her mind of the football one. He’d kicked. She’d had a bruise on her thigh for a week, purple and sulphurous where he’d kicked out. She’d even wondered for a moment if he was going to be the one who got the better of her, but he hadn’t. She knew, really. None of them ever could. In the end, she was always stronger.
“Strong, Ed,” Dad had said, “that’s the girl. Go on, strong. Try and hurt me.”
She never had. He’d taught her. Before he was gone.
That was all she could remember.
“Strong, Ed. Go on, get on with it. That’s the girl.”
It was enough. She went on kicking until they came, the grille banging open, the keys.
The woman, this time.
“Stop that, Sleightholme, pack it in. What do you want?”
“You should have thought of that, shouldn’t you?”
But the water came. They daren’t leave her without water.
She drank half of it and threw the rest in the woman’s face.
An hour later the door opened again and she had to go out, down the narrow passage, through swing doors, into another corridor. Into a room.
She knew these rooms now. No windows. No decoration. Table. Chair on one side, two on the other. Electricals for the tape machine. That was it. Bloody torture chambers.
She swung in behind them, eyes on the floor. They pushed her towards the chair and into it.
“All right, all right.”
They went. All but one. He stood by the door, behind her.
She turned round. Looked into his face.
Him. She had a moment of terror, flashing back to the ledge, and then she thought she was going to fall again, her head spun, her ears buzzed, she was falling, not him. Not like in her dream.
He had another with him, face like a mushed-up turnip.
She stared at him. Then at Blondie.
“DCI Simon Serrailler, DS Nathan Coates. Interview with Edwina Sleightholme, time …”
The rigmarole. She had to be careful. She straightened herself up. She’d not had any time to prepare. Be careful.
She stared at him. But it was turnip face who spoke.
“What was your job, Edwina?”
“Ed.” NO. Don’t say anything. Only she couldn’t take it. Wina, she’d called herself when she was a kid. Couldn’t say it, Wina. Mother called her bloody Weeny. Christ. But then she had decided. It was Ed and stayed Ed.
“Tell us what you did.”
She stared at him.
“You travelled.” He looked down at his paper. “Fruit machines. You did something with fruit machines … one-armed bandits, that sort of stuff.”
She bit her tongue.
“Was it or wasn’t it?”
Nothing. Zip it.
“Did the Mondeo go with the job then? Company car, like?”
She smiled. Couldn’t help it. Company car.
“Got you about the country, OK, didn’t it? Not a bad car. Quite fast. Big boot.”
She looked up at the ceiling. There was an odd stain. No cobwebs.
“How long did it take you to drive from here to Lafferton, Ed?” Blondie now. He had a nice voice.
“Lafferton’s where you saw David Angus, waiting by his gate for the lift that would take him to school.”
She stared at the table. Her heart was thudding. They might look at the pulse in her neck, so she bent her head right forward. She had him in her mind’s eye as clear as clear. The cap. School bag. The pillars on the gate. Felt the car slowing as she pulled into the kerb. A hand was squeezing her heart, like squeezing out a mop.
“What’s the matter?”
Stare at the table. Stare at it. Don’t look up.
“What did you say to him to make him get in? Or didn’t you? Did you pull him in? Did he try and get away from you?”
No, he’d just come with her. Believed her. Got in. Not like the others. She saw his face clearly. Heard his voice. He’d talked a lot. All the bloody way, he’d talked, asked her stuff, whinged. She hated a whinger. Never whinge. She’d learned that damn quick. Zip it.
“Did you hit him? Did you gag him? Where did you take him, Ed?”
They were both asking now, playing ping-pong with her, one after the other. She wanted to laugh at them. It was easy, now that she realised they hadn’t a clue. Easy. She was clever and you had to be, no use pretending they weren’t clever too, that’s where people went wrong. These people weren’t stupid. Just that she was cleverer.
“Did you take David to the cave, Ed? Is that where you hid his body?”
Jesus. She felt the blood behind her eyes, pulsing. They’d got her, for a second; she hadn’t thought they’d put two and two together and come out with it, bang, like that. It wasn’t fair. They weren’t playing fair.
“I want a solicitor.”
He smiled. Turnip head. She wanted to smash her hand into his ugly face.
“Why?” Blondie asked. “Why now, all of a sudden?”
“Yeah, what brought that on, Ed? The cave, was it?”
She slumped down in her chair and shoved it back slightly, so that she could look at her own feet. Not see them. Not look into their faces. Their eyes.
She heard the cave in her head, the echoes, and the sound of the sea outside. She walked round it. She walked right to the back of it. She smelled the seaweed smell. Cold seaweed. Damp sand. She had loved the cave. All those caves. Years ago, it had started. She’d slept in one. She’d dared herself. She’d found them and they were hers. She was afraid of the sea but she’d worked out how the tide went. She’d slept in one.
A different one.
“Don’t you think you should tell us where their bodies are, Ed? Think about their parents. Those boys. And others. Are there any others? How many did you take to the cave? David Angus … Scott Merriman …”
She could see Blondie’s hands out of the corner of her eye. He was ticking the names off on his fingers. He said them again.
“David … Scott … you were taking Amy there too.