The Risk of Darkness

Page 26

“OK, that’s it, sorry, Doc.” They chivvied him between them down the stairs.

Cat watched in concern, then ran towards her own car.

Now she had an even more pressing reason to call on Simon.

The home-going traffic had eased and she had a clear run through town and into the Cathedral Close. Here, there was shade to park under the wide, spreading trees. The choirboys were walking in file from the Song School towards the side door and evensong, deep red cassocks beneath white surplices. She hoped Felix might be a chorister. Sam had set his face firmly against the whole idea. Chris was against it too. The routine was punishing, he said, early mornings, every Sunday eaten up, evening practice as well, holidays often interrupted by visits to other cathedrals at home and abroad. Nevertheless, hearing Felix raise his own voice in tuneful imitation when she herself sang a bar here and there before a St Michael’s Singers practice encouraged Cat’s private ambitions.

She watched the boys disappear through the door into the cathedral, hesitating whether to go in and hear evensong rather than tackle her brother, but as she stood, dithering, Simon’s car came through the archway and flashed down the close towards the buildings at the end. She walked after him.


Simon turned. “Ahha. Come to smoke the pipe of peace? Not sure if I’m ready for that.”

“No. I just came from a patient in the Old Ribbon Factory in time to see Max Jameson being taken away by two policemen.”

“Don’t know anything about that, sorry.”

“I do need to find out, Si. Obviously the PCs wouldn’t tell me but he’s in a bad way, I’m very concerned about him.”

“They’ll be on to that. The sergeant will send for the FMO and he’ll get the duty Psych if he thinks it necessary. You know how it works.”

“I ought to see him.”

Simon shook his head. “I’ll try and find out tomorrow.”

They stood in the shadow of the building, tension and anger still simmering between them with the stale heat of the day. Rows with Simon upset Cat more than anything else, perhaps even more than the very few she ever had with Chris, because Chris blew up, then forgot, Chris was reasonable, open, upfront. Simon was none of those things.

“He did commit a pretty serious offence when he held that young clergywoman captive.”

“She didn’t press charges.”

“No, but so far as we’re concerned it’s been noted.”

“He was out of it just now. He said he’d seen his dead wife.”

“It’s not in your hands. Just leave us to deal with it.”

“What’s wrong with you? That didn’t sound like the brother I know.”

He turned away. “Perhaps because you don’t know your brother.”

Cat watched him open the front door, go through and let it close behind him. He did not ask her up. He did not look round.

She walked slowly back to her car in tears and phoned home.


“I’m on my way. Got sidetracked.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Oh, nothing, I just had to call in on Simon to check something out.”

“Now what’s your bloody brother said? I’m sick of him upsetting you.”

“I’m not upset.”

“If you say so.”

“You know what he’s like.”

“Too bloody right I know. Just come home. We love you.”

“I’m worried about Max Jameson.”

“And you’re off duty. Leave it. Hannah got a gold star for neatness.”


“I cooked the salmon. Hannah’s helping me do a potato salad.”

“Where’s Felix?”

“Watching Wimbledon.”

“Chris, you know you shouldn’t dump him in front of the television.”

“I didn’t, Sam did. They’re both in love with Miss Sharapova.”

Cat laughed.

“Good. Now come home to us.”

She took a detour via Gas Street and paused at the top. There was no sign of anything untoward. Max would be in custody. Perhaps, later tonight, he would be let out again. “I saw Lizzie and she ran away from me. I followed her.” It was easy enough to hang a label on his state of mind. Deluded. Hallucinating. The human term was suffering. How many medical problems were human problems first?

But it was Simon she thought about for the rest of the way home. She hated the way he sometimes behaved, the cold side, the part of him that shrugged everyone off. The Simon who was arrogant. She remembered pouring a bottle of cologne over his head when they were sixteen or so and he had enraged her. He had smelled of cheap scent for days.

She smiled to herself. Maybe Diana Mason should do something similar.


Eileen Meelup remembered the reference section of the local library as having newspapers on poles hung against the walls, magazines on a stand, and shelves of dictionaries and encyclopedias. There had been heavy wooden tables and chairs and your shoes had squeaked on the polished floors, making everyone look up. There had been a special sort of hush and a faintly musty smell. Like a church.

She walked in and stopped dead. Everything was different. They had painted the room white. The big books, the newspapers and magazines, the wooden tables and chairs had been replaced by a row of little tables on which stood computers, with swivel office chairs in front of them. The screens were bright and there was the soft click of keyboards.

She backed out again and went to the desk in the lending section. Newspapers? The girl muttered about there being a newsagent on the corner.

Eileen left. As well as the newsagent, there was a sandwich bar, takeaway but with a couple of high stools at a window counter. Eileen got a milky coffee and hauled herself up on to one of them.

Now that there were no newspapers she had to think again. At one time they had kept copies for the whole of the previous year, in a separate store. You asked for what you wanted and they had either got them out there and then, or you could go back. She had been relying on them, working out in her mind how she would go through them in date order, last to first. It was all she had thought about for a week and it had kept her going. The newspapers would have had everything she needed, all the reports, the police appeals, the pictures, everything. Every case would have been there. She could have gone over them slowly, making sure she knew everything. And in one of them, somewhere, there would have been what she was looking for, however hidden, however small the detail, the proof that Weeny had had nothing to do with any of it, that there had been a gross mistake, a whole catalogue of mistakes. “A miscarriage of justice.” All it would have taken would have been time and she had plenty of that now. She had handed in her notice at work so as to have all day and every day to do it. Now, she felt as if she had been set down in a place she had thought she knew but which turned out to be quite foreign to her. She could not find her way about, had no idea which route to take.

There had been no word from Weeny. Dougie had spent almost an hour on the phone trying to find out if it would be possible for her mother to visit her in prison. But no date had been fixed.

Weeny had always been funny about wanting to do things on her own. Cliff had taught her. Standing up for herself, not needing anyone. But now, faced with all of this, surely she would write, surely. Eileen scraped the coffee scum from the inside of her empty cup with the spoon. How could you get yourself into a mess like this, how could you face what was going wrong, without your family round you? Even Weeny couldn’t do that.

When they were little, Janet had always cried, cried about anything and everything. Weeny never had. She had always been composed, always the same, not laughing a lot, not crying, not chattering away like Jan. Eileen had loved her for it, loved her quiet self-possession, loved to have her sit by her, reading, doing her scrapbook. She hadn’t demanded fuss and attention like Jan. Jan had been her dad’s little girl. Weeny had been hers.

Yet she had gone. Grown up and walked out and hardly been in touch since, still needing no one, still her own person.

Short of facing some dreadful last illness, there couldn’t be anything worse than what was happening now. But still Weeny had not told them, not shared any of it, left them to find out via the television news.

What must it be like? To know you were charged with doing things so vile it was hard to let them into your head, to know you were being punished for what someone else had done, to know it was all wrong but to have to go through it just the same—it was unimaginable. Whatever she could do, she would, whoever she had to talk to, whatever she had to say to prove it, she would. Dougie would as well. Dougie knew it was a dreadful mistake as well as she herself did. They ought to be with Weeny. Surely to God Weeny ought to let them be there.

She paid for the coffee and walked back to the library.

The girl with the fingernails painted silver had gone and a plump woman was at the counter. Eileen waited for three people to check in their books.

“Good morning.”

“I came in before. I wanted to know about getting newspapers.”


“I know, she said. You don’t have newspapers now, so you wouldn’t have the old ones in the store, like you used to?”

“I’m afraid not, they went some time ago. Was it old news cuttings you wanted to find?”

“Not very old. Just some things this year.”

“Have you tried online?”

Eileen stared.

“Newspapers have online archives. You can register and do a search.” She smiled. She had an encouraging smile. “I take it you’re not into computers yet?”

“Never touched one. No.”

“It’s very easy. You can book half an hour on one and you can book tuition as well.”

“Oh no, I don’t think I could manage it.”

“Of course you could. If you only want to look up some back news, you don’t have to learn more than half a dozen steps. Why don’t you book a session?”

Dougie was putting a new washer on the kitchen tap. Bits were spread all over the draining board.

“Now what do you want to get into all that for?”

“I need to find out, it’s the only way, I’ve got to go into all of it, I’ve got to help her, I’m her mother.”

“I know. Only Keith could do it for you, couldn’t he?”

“What’s it got to do with Keith?”

Dougie looked hurt.

“I didn’t mean it like that.”

“I meant on his computer. Save you.” He started to twist the tap round and round gripping the head of the pliers. “Unless you want to. Get into all that. Computers.”

“I couldn’t ask him.”

“Why not? He’s family.”

“I have to do it myself, Dougie.”

“Suit yourself. Right, that’s done, I’ll get the water back on.”

She went to the window. It was gathering up for a storm, the sky like pencil lead. She hadn’t meant to upset Dougie. But she couldn’t ask Keith. Somewhere, like lightning far away on the horizon, she was aware of something flickering on and off in her mind, something she would not acknowledge but which was nevertheless enough to make her certain that she could not let anyone else, even if they were family, start the searching, the finding out, the questioning. It was a private thing. Private.

She turned on the tap to fill the kettle and the water sprayed out sideways, soaking her sleeve.

“Bugger.” Dougie stared at it.

Later, when he had taken the tap apart again and put it back and checked the water flow, he went into the front room. It was dark. The thunder was rumbling nearer and the rain began to hit the window in a series of slow single splashes. He did not turn the light on, just set down the tea and settled himself in his chair. After a moment, through the beating of the rain, he said, “Maybe better just leave it, love.”

“How do you mean, leave it?”

“I just don’t want you to get upset, get worried, trying to sort out what’s beyond you. I don’t want that.”

“How can you say that? She’s my daughter, I can’t sit back and watch it, I have to sort it out, of course I have to. If I can’t do that for her … How can you say that?”

He let it go and started to drink his tea, watching the storm break and the rain hurl itself against the picture windows.


The receptionist put her head round the door.

“Can you see one more?”

Cat groaned. She had closed her computer and was checking through some notes. Morning surgery seemed to have lasted for five years.

“How many visits have I got?”

“Not too bad actually … Mr Wilkins has gone into hospital and Mrs Fabiani died this morning.”

“Go on then, but this is the last, Cathy.”

“I said you would. Only she has been waiting over an hour.”

The new receptionist was wonderful to work with, efficient, sympathetic, charming and organised. Her only problem was an inability to say no to patients.

Cat looked up as the door opened on Jane Fitzroy.

“I’m really sorry, I know you’ve had a long morning.”

“Sit down. I think I remember asking you to come and see me before now?”

Jane made a face. “I didn’t think I needed to and you know how it is …”


“I’m surprised, really, I didn’t expect all this to go on affecting me, it’s over and done with. I ought to have put it behind me.”

“You had a frightening—no, a shocking experience. These things take longer than you might suppose. Tell me.”

“I just need something to help me sleep. If you can give me that, so I get a few decent nights, I’ll be fine.”

“Let’s see. I’ll give you a quick check-over first.”

“No, honestly, don’t waste your time, I’m a very healthy person. I just can’t cope with not sleeping.”

“Are you having flashbacks?”

“Sometimes. Yes, when I go back into the house at the end of the day … especially if it’s late. Yes. It’s really stupid, I know.”

“Not at all. Really normal and understandable. Panic attacks?”

Jane hesitated. “I’m … I get … I don’t know.”

“You know what form they take, though? You’re suddenly gripped by fear and panic out of the blue … you want to run away. Your heart pounds … sometimes you overbreathe, sometimes you start to shake. Some people feel nauseous or want to rush to the loo … some people feel giddy or faint. It does vary but the overwhelming feeling is one of fear. There’s a sense of impending doom.”

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