She remembered somewhere dark and wood-panelled but now the house was full of light. Walls had been knocked down and in the main sitting room a wide bow window opened out onto the garden. The place was empty and smelled of fresh paint.
‘We want it to be as little like an institution as possible. There will be smaller rooms down here – a separate one for television, one for crafts and memory activities … several occupational therapists.’ He led the way into a new conservatory which looked towards the Tor.
‘I wish everyone with dementia who needed to live somewhere like this, could.’
‘I know. Cost. Money. I’ve been talking to people in the local authority but the chances of getting any fully funded places are growing smaller every day. I dislike the idea that I will be caring only for the well off.’
‘But the well off are still people and those with dementia have equal needs. Look at it that way.’
His smile was immediate and had a great sweetness. ‘I try to. And you’re right.’ They were heading towards the staircase. ‘Up here are patients’ rooms, staff quarters, nursing station. Utility rooms are all on the ground floor – we’ve built an extension on the back for kitchen, laundry, all of that. And a big staffroom where I hope they will be able to relax and switch off, even during a tea break. It’s vital.’
There was the sound of banging and the smell of new carpet as they walked along.
‘When will you open?’
‘I hope we can welcome the first residents by the end of the month. Once the decorators are out of the main house, we can get the furniture in – it’ll come together very quickly. The builders will just have a bit of outside work to complete. Would you like some coffee? There isn’t much more to see but I would like to know if you’ve any suggestions – I’m trying to see as many GPs as I can and people from the hospital too if they can come over. Your input will be important. The point is that there are any number of general care homes but this is the first to cater solely for dementia sufferers and to focus on their very specific needs. It’s a growing problem … well, I don’t need to tell you.’
He led the way back to the ground floor and down a side corridor.
‘We’ve bought the house next door – you can see it from here. We moved in a month ago so at least home is now a home. This is my office – shambles still.’
He pushed papers off a chair.
John Lowther had suggested that she come here, see the new facilities, and at the same time form an opinion about Fison as possible head of the new hospice committee. She watched him as he made their coffee, talking all the time about what he called his mission, not only to provide dementia care but to move practical work with sufferers forward. From what he had been saying Cat gathered that he saw himself as a specialist and even something of a pioneer.
Given all of which it seemed unlikely that he would have the time or the inclination to take on another role. Whether he would be right for that role she decided she could not tell. Fund-raising on a professional level was not her area of expertise.
But she liked Leo Fison, she thought, as she drove away, and she liked what she had heard of his plans, as well as the potential of the house. It had a good feel.
She was still thinking about it as she headed back, first to do a grocery shop, then to Imogen House after lunch, for a clinical meeting. The country road wound round the Moor, single track in places, and as she stopped and reversed a few yards into a gateway to let a tractor pass, she saw Simon and hooted.
He had already slowed to a jog.
‘Hey! Why aren’t you at work?’
‘Same to you.’ He opened the car door and got in. ‘I was heading over there.’
Cat looked at fluttering tape stretched between the plastic posts.
‘Have you got a few minutes?’
She parked beside his Audi, and together they scrambled up the muddy section of track.
‘Is this a crime scene?’
‘Officially. But forensics have combed it for days and pretty much done – there won’t be anything else to find, especially not after the rain we’ve had since.’
They reached the area where the soil had been flattened down. Below, out of sight, came the rumble of traffic on the bypass. Above them, two buzzards soared lazily, wings flat, like the sails of a windmill. They were on the edge of the first clumps of trees.
Simon stood looking down, then turned and looked up at the Moor. Turned back.
Cat put a hand on his arm. ‘It’s gone, Si. It can’t tell you anything else.’
‘It has to. I’ve got that feeling I’ve had so often before. If I stand long enough I’ll know. It will tell me. Do you understand? Somehow it’s here. I need to hear it or see it … what I have to know is here somewhere.’
‘No. It was once. If there were any secrets, they’ll have them.’
He sighed. ‘It gets me every time.’
‘It’s also a long time ago. You were lucky they could identify her at all.’
‘What about the other body?’
‘There’s a request out. Girls gone missing around the same time as Harriet, and still unaccounted for. Every force will check. Something could come out of it. Not that discovering who she is will necessarily move us forward to who killed her and why.’
The wind blew fine rain into their faces.
‘Time for a quick pub lunch?’
She was going to say no, that she ought to do the supermarket run before her meeting, but then she looked again at her brother’s face. He was troubled by this case, beginning to be obsessed by it, as he sometimes was, fiercely determined to focus on nothing else until he reached the solution and could close it for good. It would eat into his sleep and dreams as well as occupy most of his waking hours.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Where’s nearest?’
‘Churchill Arms. Race you to the cars.’
He was well ahead of her, long legs taking the slope easily. Cat had no intention of slipping on her backside by trying to outrun him and he was putting on his warm kit by the time she reached level ground.
The pub was quiet. They had bowls of thick lentil and tomato soup, with grated cheese, doorsteps of home-made bread. Simon leaned his back against the bench and eased his shoulders forward a few times.
‘Why don’t you take a holiday? Your back always plays up when you need a break.’
‘Ha. But there’s a treat coming up – feel like helping me enjoy it?’
‘I don’t think I trust you.’
‘Wise woman. Next Tuesday night. Big banquet given by the Lord Lieutenant. The Chief has appointed me to go in her place.’
‘Since when did you need your sister to hold your hand at deadly social functions? I can’t – you know Tuesday night is choir night.’
‘Oh come on, you go every Tuesday.’
‘Precisely. I need to. We’re doing some Berlioz and it’s hard. Ask a proper date.’
‘Do you think Judith would come?’
‘And your stepmother is a proper date? Are you losing your touch?’
But seeing the closed expression drop down like a portcullis over his features, she bent her head to her soup and said nothing more.
They drank their coffee and Cat got up. ‘Chores beckon.’
‘So do cold case files.’
‘Don’t let it get to you, Si.’
‘What, that I’m getting too old to pull?’
‘I didn’t say that and you know it.’
He kissed her on the cheek and turned away. Damn, Cat thought. In spite of their closeness, one chance remark and he shut her out. Dear God, why don’t I learn?
All the same, she was not going to try to win him round by agreeing to give up St Michael’s Singers to be his partner at a banquet of dignitaries.
As she got her supermarket trolley a text message came through.
What’s Molly’s Mob no?
She cursed as she pressed reply. Don’t even think it.
There was no answer.
He smiled to himself most of the way home, knowing he had wound Cat up and that she would fret all the way round the supermarket in case he had been serious.
Had he? The thought of taking Molly to the banquet was a pleasing one, but he drew the line at a twenty-four-year-old with a boyfriend, even as his partner for a single evening.
It was his sister’s dig at his single status that annoyed him. It was a while since Kirsty on the Scottish island, Kirsty now married to Douglas – he had had a cheery email and a wedding photograph. Simon wished them well and was entirely without envy.
He ran up the stairs to his flat, changed, showered, made coffee and then rang into the station. The message about the second skeleton had gone out and replies were coming in from other forces, detailing young women who had gone missing around the same time as Harriet Lowther and who had never been found. There were enough of them and each case would have to be followed up. Tomorrow, he would go in and try once again to get a team together, now that he had the nod from the Chief.
Today, he was still on his own, so he worked through the rest of the files on Harriet, then listed people he wanted to interview himself.
White van man
Needle. And not even much of a haystack.
PAM STARTED TO cry, and after a few moments Jocelyn had to hold the receiver away so as not to hear her stumbled words buried in sobs and odd little choking noises.
She had written it all very carefully in a letter, reading it over twice and then rewriting it in what they had called ‘best’ when they were at school together. She and Pam went as far back as that.
The phone call had come in the early evening. Pam had had the day to think about Jocelyn’s request but in fact she had not, she said, been able to think about it at all, she had torn the letter into pieces and thrown it in the rubbish, then retrieved and burned it instead.
‘I have never been so upset. I honestly don’t believe I have. I’ve been shaking all day.’
‘My dear, you should have rung earlier, or just come here. I didn’t intend it to upset you like this.’
‘So what did you intend?’ But the crying had begun before Jocelyn could answer.
‘I’m sorry. Let’s just forget it, forget the whole thing, Pam.’
‘You ask me to … as if you wanted us to go out for a day in the country or something. You’ve changed our entire relationship … you’ve destroyed a friendship of over fifty years. Doesn’t it occur to you?’
It had not, but clearly for Pam things between them would never be the same.
Somehow, she blurted out a few more apologies and came off the phone. She made a pot of tea and took it out to the conservatory, though it was a grey and dismal outlook.
She would ask no one else. If her daughter and her oldest friend had reacted so badly, leaving her feeling both guilty and disturbed, there could be no more attempts.
But she was not going to change her own plans. She had burrowed deeper into the Internet and braced herself to read some personal accounts of those who had had relatives die of MND – what its progress had been, how they had worsened, how they had died – and they had only served to strengthen her determination. Waiting until she could no longer speak or swallow, and then breathe, was out of the question. She was not brave enough. Yes, she thought now, that’s what it was. A question of bravery. What she planned required far less courage.
It was not until later that she found the newspaper, on the floor with a pile others to be put out for recycling. As she bent to move them she saw the photograph and the headline, which she must surely have read at the time without much interest. The paper was several weeks old, from what she had come to think of as ‘the time before’ – the time before the symptoms had appeared. In her old life.
SUICIDE DOCTOR KILLED IN ROAD ACCIDENT
Dr Thomas Thorne, a retired GP who accompanied a number of patients to a Swiss clinic and helped them commit suicide, was killed yesterday in a multiple accident on the M4. Dr Thorne had freely admitted to going to the Bene Mori clinic and said in an interview, ‘I would do it again, if I was asked. So long as I am satisfied that the patient is of sound mind and suffering from an incurable terminal illness, if they wish me to go with them and help them, I will gladly do so. My conscience is quite clear.’ Dr Thorne, who was 72 …
She went upstairs. She took great care now when having her bath, aware that her balance or the movement of her legs could let her down, not filling it too full or allowing the water to be too hot. But tonight, she had no trouble, and she managed to turn the taps on and off without too much of a struggle. For how much longer?
Dr Thomas Thorne was in her mind the whole time. She could not ask him for assistance now, but she could surely find someone else, somewhere, a doctor or someone similar who was willing to help people in her situation. It relieved her mind. Presumably it would be a business arrangement – certainly all fares paid and probably a ‘fee’ – and she felt much happier about that, she realised, than she had about asking someone she knew.
What could be simpler or more efficient? It did not much matter to her that she would travel with a stranger and that she would draw her last breath among strangers, see strange faces last of all. They would not show distress or have any reason to try and deter her at the last minute, she would not feel guilt or face their tears. Problem solved. She slept.
And woke at four thirty. Problem solved? So what must she do? Advertise?
‘Congenial companion wanted to travel with terminally ill lady to …’
‘Friend wanted to assist …’
‘Wanted. Discreet person to …’
She got up and went downstairs. The house was silent. She looked through the curtain at the outside. It was never very busy but now, deserted under the street lights, it looked like a street in a black-and-white photograph.
Once, she had had a cat, never especially affectionate or companionable, but a presence in the house, something else that moved and breathed, and she longed for it now, sleeping curled on the kitchen chair, or at the foot of her bed.
The kettle whistled.
A moment later, boiling water was all over the floor. She was not badly scalded but only because she had jumped back as she had dropped the kettle, out of a hand that had suddenly ceased to work.
She sat at the table, frightened. Something else. She was not safe to make tea in her own kitchen.
She knew that the progress of her disease was unpredictable but that at any time she might find that a particular symptom had become very much worse very quickly. Today, her grip was weakening, tomorrow, she might find her walking much more unsteady, or that she had difficulty speaking or swallowing. No one could tell her what exactly would or would not happen next or how long it would all take, but, sitting here at the kitchen table, with hot water dripping onto the floor, Jocelyn knew that if she was to make arrangements to travel, it had to be done soon.