‘It might have gone altogether. It doesn’t matter, Moll. Things sometimes come back weeks later, months even. Or they never do. The tests were fine.’
She closed her eyes again. Cat sat without speaking, touched her hand, adjusted her bedding. Molly slept.
She was still asleep when there was a tap on the door.
‘Cat … Glad you’re here. How is she?’ Leo Fison slipped into the room.
‘She’ll be fine. Scan clear.’
‘Thank God for that. We’d never have forgiven ourselves – that step is dangerous, a patient could have fallen over it, a nurse … the doors have to be kept closed until we can make it safe.’ He spoke in a low voice, glancing at Molly a couple of times. ‘I can’t tell you how awful I feel about this.’
‘What exactly happened? Molly doesn’t remember.’
‘Nothing at all?’
His voice was raised slightly in what Cat thought was anxiety. No wonder. They’d been lucky. But Molly could sue. She might not be well enough to take her finals. The home wasn’t out of the woods and Leo knew it.
‘The trouble is, no one knows. She was on her own. Someone just found her lying there – one of the carers when she came in looking for something. Damn good job she did. It’s always quiet for an hour or so after lunch. Molly might have been lying there for much longer.’
‘Do you know how long she was there anyway?’
‘No, I don’t. No one has said. Not sure we can find out now if Molly has amnesia.’
‘It might come back of course. She could remember it all quite clearly in a day or so.’
‘Yes. Well, let’s hope. Has she said anything else?’
‘Oh, you know, the morning, if she found it useful being with us … anything at all really.’ He was looking at his watch, then at Molly again.
‘No,’ Cat said. ‘I haven’t quizzed her either.’
‘Of course not, I didn’t expect it. Just wondered … sometimes people come out with things when they’ve had a knock.’
‘I have to get back, I’m afraid. Some relatives to look us over. They like to meet us both. I like them to get the best impression.’
He was restless, anxious to be away, Cat thought, anxious to put Molly and her accident to the back of his mind.
‘Better make sure those doors are locked,’ she said.
‘I have. I will.’
‘What?’ Molly was stirring and muttering. ‘What is it?’
Cat went to the side of the bed and put her hand gently on the girl’s forearm. ‘It’s all right, Moll. You’re just waking up. I’m here.’
Molly opened her eyes and, as she did so, saw Leo Fison who was at the foot of the bed. Cat saw a look cross Molly’s face as she recognised him. It was a look of pure fear, then anxiety, panic. And then it changed to one of bewilderment, before she closed her eyes quickly, as if to shut out the sight of the man.
He had seen it too. Cat knew it. He saw, and then he turned and left, giving her a slight wave of his hand, but not looking in her direction again.
Cat set her chair closer to the bedside and took Molly’s hand. She pulled it away, but then opened her eyes again.
‘Oh,’ she said with a sigh. ‘Oh.’
‘Yes. Moll, what is it?’
‘I … don’t know.’ She looked fearful.
‘You seemed frightened.’
‘I don’t know.’
‘It was when you saw Leo Fison.’
‘I don’t know.’ She looked completely bewildered. ‘I’m frightened because I felt frightened but I don’t know what of or why and I’m frightened because I don’t remember anything at all. Has my mind gone?’
‘No, not at all. You’ve had concussion. You’ll be fine, this is quite common. Your brain isn’t damaged.’
‘I’m quite thirsty.’
Cat helped her to drink, then lowered her backrest a couple of notches and dropped the window blind.
‘Have a sleep now. Best thing you can do.’
‘It won’t be hard.’ Molly smiled at her wanly as she went out.
Simon was coming in through the main hospital doors as Cat left.
‘How is she?’
‘She’ll be fine. Doesn’t remember anything about it. No permanent damage though.’
‘Sorry, I haven’t yet had a chance to send anyone up to ask questions but if she’s going to be OK maybe it’s not necessary. Listen, at a rough guess, how many nursing homes would there be in the local area taking people with dementia?’
‘Well, Maytree House does for a start.’
‘The one where Molly’s been?’
‘Yes. I told you – run by Leo Fison who’s bringing us in a fair bit of dosh for the hospice. Lot of good contacts too. He might have saved our bacon.’
‘A lot of care homes refuse to take Alzheimer’s sufferers. I’ve got a list in the surgery … half a dozen maybe? Not more. Why?’
‘I need your list. I need to track someone down. Molly doesn’t remember anything but presumably she will …’
‘Not necessarily. She might. Hopefully she will.’
‘But someone with Alzheimer’s won’t remember anything?’
‘Depends. It’s short-term memory that’s affected – so people might remember a whole poem they learned when they were eight or nine, not what they had for lunch an hour ago or even if they had lunch at all. That sort of thing. Eventually, the long-term memory goes too of course.’
‘Someone with dementia now – say they’ve had it for five or six years? Would they remember something from ten years before?’
‘I can’t answer that. It’s like Molly. They might, they might not. It’s random.’
‘Would it depend on what it was? Say it was the memory of being attacked? Or of being in a car crash? Something that sears itself on the mind.’
‘I can look up some articles. But I think the answer is likely to be yes, a dramatic incident – one full of emotion – that could well be remembered longer than a mundane event. There’s no guarantee though.’
‘Can you get me that list of care homes?’
‘Come back to the surgery now, I’ll find it in two minutes.’
‘I’ll follow you.’
‘You can start with Maytree.’
‘I thought you said it was new.’
‘Opened last month.’
‘Then she won’t be there – she’s been in a home for several years.’
‘Right. I’ll get the list. See you there.’
Twenty minutes later, Simon sat in his sister’s office, telephoning his way down the names of care homes which accepted dementia patients. There were seven of them. It didn’t take long to track the sad trajectory of Miss Olive Mills.
Molly woke and lay for a moment looking at the white blind drawn down over the window. Puzzled. Uncertain where she was. What the blind was. Why it was there. Her head ached. She had a drip attached to her left arm. Why? The door opened.
‘Ah, you’re awake? How do you feel now?’
The nurse looked at the drip. Adjusted it. Checked her temperature. Pulse. Looked at her head wound. Hand.
‘My head aches.’
‘I’ll give you some painkillers in a few minutes. You’re doing fine.’
‘What happened? I don’t know why I’m here.’
‘You had a nasty fall. Hit your head and knocked yourself out.’
‘The care home … don’t you work there?’
‘No. What care home? I’m a medical student.’ She remembered that quite clearly.
‘What, here in BG?’
‘Yes. Finals in a few weeks.’
‘Right. Good for you. Have you had anything to eat?’
‘No … I had lunch.’
‘What did you have?’
‘So you’ll be ready for the delights of hospital shepherd’s pie.’
She straightened the bedcovers. Went out.
Salad. Was that right? Had she eaten salad for lunch? Where had she? ‘You had a nasty fall.’ Where? She tried to think. To picture anywhere she might have been when she had a nasty fall. Off her bike? No. ‘The care home,’ the nurse had said. Care home.
She had no memory at all of anything. ‘A salad.’ Why had she said that?
Her head ached ferociously. Trying to think made it worse and in any case it was pointless. Nothing happened, nothing came. She remembered riding her bike up a long residential road on a sunny day. But that could have been weeks ago. Nothing else.
Molly closed her eyes again.
Simon parked in the lane beyond the gates of Bransby churchyard. As he did so, his phone beeped a message.
‘You are the love of my life. I don’t know what this means.’
His hand shook.
Should he believe it? He could not believe it. Would not. What had happened between them was too rare. It mattered too much. Her husband mattered too. And, for now, Simon knew he had to be without her.
He wondered how he was going to do that.
Leo Fison walked between the trees in the darkness, away from the brick building. The grass was slightly damp, the sky pricked over with stars. He had locked the door behind him, bolted it, secured the windows.
Would the girl remember? Who knew? It was a worry and he could do nothing. Wait. Hope.
The woman Jocelyn Forbes had sent an email saying that she would not visit after all. She had changed her mind. She would be consulting Dr Deerbon. Her daughter was moving in to look after her. She felt sure she had made the right decision.
He was not worried about Jocelyn Forbes. She would say nothing. Hazel would say nothing. And nothing was written down, there was no trail that could conceivably be followed to his door.
Had the way he had grabbed Molly caused her to fall over the step? No. It was the sudden way Olive had come crashing into her like a bull. Olive was known to be violent. And strong. It was amazing that she had come round so quickly from the injection he’d given her.
No one else had been there. Olive would not remember anything. Molly might not. And if she did?
There was no evidence. Nothing.
He went towards the house. But he felt no relief. No sense of luck, no triumph at having had any sort of escape.
His mind was uneasy as he went inside, and closed and bolted the door.
Wait. That was all anyone could do. Wait.
At first, Tadpole Cottage seemed to be in darkness, but when he walked round the back, past the parked van and the quiet hen run, Serrailler saw a low light shining through the drawn curtains of the kitchen. He could hear the sound of a piano being played inside the house.
It took a long time before she came to the door. When she saw him, she merely held it wider and walked away.
‘I need to talk to you again,’ he said.
Lenny shrugged. Her back to him.
‘May I sit down?’
He did so.
‘Sit here, please,’ he said.
‘I’d rather stand.’
‘Fine. Your partner, Olive Mills, was here that day, wasn’t she? The day Harriet Lowther came for her piano lesson.’
‘Where is Olive now?’
‘I told you. She has dementia. She’s in a home. She’ll never come back here.’
‘Maytree House care home.’
She looked at him. ‘She won’t be able to tell you anything at all. She’s way past remembering.’
‘Have you been up there? Have you been pestering her? Pestering her with questions when you’ve been told what happened? You’d no right.’
‘She remembers Agneta. She says her name quite often. The staff had thought it was Agatha but when I said “Agneta” Olive knew. Her eyes told me she knew the name perfectly well. She said it once or twice while I was there.’
‘Doesn’t she have enough without you pestering her, upsetting her?’
‘Yes, she was upset. She became very agitated. They had to calm her down. She was actually quite angry. When I said the name. She has fits of rage apparently. Was that always the case?’
‘Did she fly into a rage that afternoon?’
‘She wasn’t demented then, she was herself, it was years ago.’
‘Sixteen years. Yes.’
‘Olive was perfectly well.’
‘But she had a temper. She was liable to throw a fit of anger sometimes – when you said or did something that made her feel threatened, or annoyed. What really happened that afternoon, Lenny? You should tell me. You’ve told me half a story. I know that Harriet was here. That there was an incident. It involved Agneta too, didn’t it?’
‘Tell me, Lenny. It won’t make any difference.’
‘What do you mean? You didn’t arrest me earlier. Are you going to do it now?’
‘I don’t know. I have to decide that after you’ve told me the truth.’
‘You ought to. I ought to rot in hell for what I did.’
‘What exactly did you do?’
‘I know what you told me, but that wasn’t the full story, or even some of it. I wonder if any of it bears an approximation to the truth.’
‘Of course it does.’
Simon looked at her steadily. ‘Tell me. Olive can’t. That was very obvious. She knew the name Agneta and it sent her into a rage but she doesn’t really remember the girl, and when I said “Harriet” she blanked it completely. Her eyes didn’t flicker. I said it several times. Nothing. There was no point in continuing to ask her questions. There won’t ever be any point and you know that. So you’re the only one who can help me get all this right. Tell me the truth, Lenny.’
The bulb in the lamp was a dim one and the shade was thick, a waxy yellow, so that the kitchen was in the half-dark. The sky outside was ink blue. He could see a couple of stars. Nothing moved.
After several minutes, Lenny Wilcox sighed. Then sat heavily down, as if she was suddenly exhausted. He knew the signs. She had had enough. She would tell him now.
‘I met Olive nearly thirty years ago. It was instant. Instant. I knew there would never be anybody else, from those first days with her. Her. She was everything. It was the same for us both. But Olive never believed me, not really. She was a terribly insecure person. And it became worse. Everyone I glanced at was a threat. Everyone I knew – if I went to a concert with a colleague, if I was friendly with someone, that was a threat. I couldn’t have stopped it. I came to believe she had to be jealous. It seemed to satisfy something in her. She needed to be jealous. She was jealous of the girls I taught, other women I worked with, there was row after row about it, but in the end I gave up bothering. Nothing I could do. When Harriet came here, Olive was very angry. School was one thing but pupils didn’t come here, she wouldn’t have it. Harriet was special though. Talented. And a very sweet girl. A pretty girl. I was sitting next to her on the piano stool, showing her some difficult fingering in the Schubert piece and Olive came in. Just banged in through the door. That was what she did. She was suspicious. No reason to be but she was and there I sat with Harriet, next to Harriet, at the piano. She went berserk, absolutely flew into a rage. Olive’s rages were frightening. Harriet looked at me in terror. Who was this woman, what was happening? I put my hand round her shoulder to reassure her that it would be all right, I‘d deal with it, and then Olive lunged forward, grabbed her by the arm and shoved her very hard at the same time. I had no chance to stop her, you see. No chance, it was all in a few seconds, and Harriet hit the kerb of the hearth, the stone kerb, right beside the piano. I heard her head crack against it. I’ve heard it every day since. And the next minute, I realised that Agneta was in the room.