“Hard for them both.”
“It was cruel.”
“I fear for him, Dr Deerbon. I’ve been watching him today. He’s been like a hot spring boiling up inside, just about keeping the lid on for her.”
“I’ll go and see him.” Cat lifted Lizzie’s hands and folded them gently on top of each other. “But not tonight.” She turned towards the door. “I’m bushed.”
It was all she could do to stay focused enough to drive safely, and she opened the car windows and switched on the late-night news.
“Police in North Yorkshire have arrested a thirty-eight-year-old woman in connection with the abduction of a six-year-old girl, Amy Sudden, from near her home in the village of Gathering Bridge. The woman was taken to Scarborough hospital from where the detective in charge of the case, DCS Jim Chapman of the North Riding force, spoke to reporters.”
Cat turned on to the bypass. There was very little traffic, and she could slow down without causing annoyance.
The strong Yorkshire voice came over, speaking in the usual, robotic official way. “I would like to confirm that, this afternoon, officers from the North Riding force pursued a car travelling towards the coast and that a six-year-old girl was discovered in the boot of that car, when it came to a halt on scrubland above the cliffs some miles north of Scarborough. The girl was taken by ambulance to Scarborough hospital where she has undergone a medical examination. Although suffering from shock and dehydration, she has no serious injuries and should be allowed home in a couple of days. I can also confirm that police pursued and subsequently arrested the driver of the car and that tonight a thirty-eight-year-old woman has been taken into custody. That is all I can say for the moment.”
“Superintendent, can you comment on reports that charges may also be brought in connection with the disappearance of two young boys, one in the North Riding force area, and one from the south of England?”
“I’m sorry, I can’t say any more for the time being.”
“Can you confirm that a senior officer from another force is with you in connection with these other two cases of presumed abduction?”
“I can’t, no.”
Cat switched off the radio, and headed for home.
Lights were still on in the farmhouse but the kitchen was empty. From upstairs came her elder son’s voice wailing loudly.
“I didn’t know it would, I’m sorry, Daddy, I didn’t know …”
Cat dropped her bag and headed up.
“What’s going on?”
Chris, Sam and Felix were in the bathroom. Felix was in the bath.
“Mummy, it wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t, I didn’t know it—”
“Sam, shut up. Stop whining. The more you go on the crosser it makes me, so shut up.”
It was rare for Chris to speak so sharply to the children.
“Sam thought marker pen made good tattoos on Felix and I can’t get the bloody stuff off.”
Cat sat on the laundry bin and began to laugh.
“The funny side of it escapes me. Felix, stop squirming.”
“You’ll get nowhere scrubbing like that, Chris, it’ll just have to wear off. Sam, you should know better. Gosh, is it that late? Where’s Hannah?”
“Asleep. This is boys’ trouble.”
Chris looked at Cat for the first time. “Hey.”
“Hey. Glass of wine would be nice.”
“Christ, what a pack of mongrels in here.”
“Whereas outside it’s more your baying wolves.”
“Tell you later.”
Cat scooped her younger son out of the bath.
“His fingers have gone wrinkly,” Sam said. “Like aliens’.”
“How do you know?”
“I know everything about aliens.”
“Maybe because you are one.”
He let out a gleeful shriek.
Twenty minutes later, children asleep, Cat went in search of the glass of wine that had never materialised. Chris was lying on the kitchen sofa.
“Yes.” She nudged him. “Move your legs.”
Chris opened his eyes. “It can’t go on,” he said. “And I want a whisky.”
Cat knew better than to take umbrage. Moods like this had become quite common. She thought she knew how to handle them.
“I’m absolutely pissed off.”
“Sam just didn’t think. It’s not the end of the world.”
“Not Sam, though he’s too old to be so stupid, he should start thinking occasionally. But not that, bloody everything. I had a pig of a day, I had three emergencies, I had a mountain of paperwork, I had that meeting with the Primary Health Care Trust which you should have been at, I come home expecting you to be back within the hour and you’re gone half the night. Anyway, I’ve told the PHCT neither of us will be joining the night-call rota and that goes for half the GPs in our area, more than half, they can pay through the nose for agency doctors, serve them right.”
“You did what? Chris, you may not be prepared to go on doing nights now the new contract is on us— that’s up to you—but I think you’re wrong. Why should our patients suffer, so you and your chums can score political points?”
“Patients are not going to suffer.”
“Well, I’m going to carry on doing nights on call the same as I always have.”
“Anyway, where were you?”
“Don’t do that to me, just ignoring what I say and changing the subject, it’s so bloody arrogant. I’ll make it clear to the PHCT tomorrow that whatever you said applies to you, not to me.”
“Thus slicing the practice down the middle. How supportive.”
“Oh, don’t be childish.” She got up. The wine, which she had drunk too quickly, had hit her like a hammer, making her sway with exhaustion. “I need to sleep.”
“You still haven’t said where you were.”
“I was having my mobile nicked and being knocked to the ground in a passageway on the Dulcie estate, after which the paramedics found the patient I’d gone to see dead in his lavatory. Then I went to the hospice where Lizzie Jameson had just died and Max went roaring off into the night. Then I came home. On the way I heard that North Riding Police have arrested someone—a woman for God’s sake. She’d abducted a little girl, and she might be the David Angus person as well … too much for one night.”
Upstairs, she sat down on the edge of the bed and began to sob. Seconds later, Chris was beside her.
“God, I am so sorry … I’m a pig.”
“We don’t need this.” He put his arms round her. “Neither of us needs this. Just think if we didn’t have to.”
“Please,” Cat said, “please don’t start about Australia. I really, really couldn’t take it.”
“Well, something has to happen, Cat. A big change.”
“Listen, get a babysitter for Saturday. I want us to go out. I want to talk properly. Can you?”
“I don’t want to spoil a nice dinner talking about Australia,” Cat mumbled. “I’m too tired to get undressed.”
“Yes, look at you … look at us. You come in from being mugged on some poxy housing estate, I’ve been fighting bureaucracy instead of treating patients, then fighting my children because I’m tired and frustrated … What is this? What are we doing here?”
She had been on the brink of falling asleep in her clothes. Now Cat sat up, her brain and body charged and electric. “Why are you shouting at me? We don’t do this, Chris, we don’t shout.”
“This can’t wait until we’re sitting across some random restaurant table. I won’t sleep now until it’s sorted. It’s not just about being on call at night.”
“No. It’s a whole lot more. I’ve been trying to get to grips with it in my head …”
“Without talking about it to me?”
“We’re never together long enough.”
She felt as if she was being attacked on all sides by hideous things which danced round her in an evil, gloating dance. And then it occurred to her, sickeningly that this was what had happened to Karin McCafferty—one moment, rushing home to tell her husband that her scans were clear, her cancer gone, the next being confronted by a man who was leaving her to live with another woman in New York.
“It wasn’t even a younger woman,” she said aloud. “I don’t know why that would have made it better but it would. Only she was older. An older woman for Christ’s sake.”
Chris was staring at her blankly.
“Karin,” she said dully. “When Mike left her.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
There was a pause, then Chris closed his eyes. “Oh dear God.” He took hold of her hands. “What this has to do with is that I am sick and tired and I am almost burned out. It is about me not wanting to do this any more. I do not want to be what I am.”
“Which is? Husband? Father?”
“Of course not husband and father. A GP. I don’t want to be a GP.”
“But you’re a doctor through and through, you’re—”
“I didn’t say ‘doctor,’ I said GP. That’s what I’ve had enough of. You still love it. I am beginning to hate it and when I don’t hate it I resent it. The job has changed, the bureaucracy gets to me … but it isn’t just that … I don’t want to do it any longer. If I carry on I’ll become a bad doctor.”
“We need a holiday, that’s all.”
“No. It isn’t all. We had a holiday and I didn’t feel any better. Look, I didn’t mean to start on this huge thing in the middle of the night when we’re both shattered.”
“What do you really want to do?”
“Retrain … well, partly. I want to go back into psychiatry.”
“I think I might cry. Or be sick.”
“Relief. Not Australia, not another woman.”
“I’ve given up on Australia and what other woman would have me?” He wandered into the bathroom. “What was that about a woman being arrested?”
“Father in Heaven, grant them comfort in their suffering. When afraid, give them courage, when afflicted grant them patience, when dejected afford them hope; and when alone assure them of the prayerful support of your holy people, through Jesus Christ Our Lord.”
The candle flames barely glimmered and the lamps made a glowing cave of the Chapel of Christ the Healer. The great cathedral spaces behind Jane Fitzroy were hollowed out of darkness. She knelt alone before the small altar on which stood a striking modern gold cross.
She loved to say the last office of the day alone here. Tonight she had come in to pray for the two patients who had died in Imogen House, and for another who would probably die in a few hours. The cathedral’s night silence seemed not hollow or empty but crammed with centuries of prayer. She could understand how people gave themselves to the monastic life.
She bent her head for another moment to commend herself to God but, as she did so, a sound made her hesitate. She thought she had heard a door brush against the stone floor as it opened. She waited. Nothing. Silence again.
She bent her head.
Footsteps came down the side aisle, someone in soft-soled shoes.
The main doors would have been closed and locked but the side door was open for her to secure when she left for the night.
She stood up. “Is someone there?”
The footsteps stopped.
“Hello?” The candle flames were steady but her own voice wavered slightly. “Can I help you?”
Nothing. She wondered whether to move forward confidently or wait. The footsteps came nearer.
“The cathedral is closed really, but if you’ve come in to pray please stay a few moments, there are things I can do before I have to leave.”
A man stood at the open gate of the chapel. He did not come in. He had a two-day stubble on both jaw and head, wore a navy reefer jacket and a red scarf. She sighed. Not a madman, not a thief, not drunk, not—she smiled as the word came to her—not unrespectable.
“Max,” she said.
He looked bewildered, as if he were not certain where he was or why. Then he said, “Lizzie.”
“Max, I am so sorry.” Jane got up and went to him, put out a hand to touch his arm. He stared at it as if an alien creature had alighted there. “I’ve been saying the evening prayers. Do you want to sit quietly for a minute?”
“You look exhausted.”
“I’ve been walking about. I can’t go home. I can’t go back there.”
“It’s very hard.”
He took a few steps into the chapel. Jane waited. She and Max Jameson had met only once, when she had been to see Lizzie at Imogen House and he had been curt with her, telling her that she was not needed. She had left, understanding, but returned after he had gone, to give the then sleeping Lizzie a blessing.
“I hate this place.”
He gestured around him. “She made me bring her here. Early on. I would have taken her anywhere. I’d have carried her on my back … It was called a service of healing.” He laughed, a small, cold laugh. “I knelt down there. I prayed as well. It might have worked, I’d have tried whatever she wanted. She believed it helped. She said so.”
“Would you like me to say a prayer now … or to pray with you?”
“No. There’s no point.”
“I think there is.”
“Of course you do.”
“I’ll pray. You just sit.”
“Why did Lizzie die?”
“I don’t know.”
“You wouldn’t put an animal through that. Who would? What is this joke?”
“Come on … why don’t you come back to my house and I’ll make some coffee … you can talk if you want to, not if you don’t. You shouldn’t be wandering the streets, you need company.”
“I need Lizzie.”
“I know, Max. If I could give her to you I would. I do know she is with you all the time now in spirit.”