‘Karin, I don’t want “important names” … phooey. I want someone I can like and trust and who can come to love and nurture this beautiful place. And that is you. I knew it straight away.’
‘There’s no doubt that I could love it. Who wouldn’t?’
‘Well then … it’s done?’
‘What about your husband?’
‘Oh, Cax will have what I want.’
Yes, Karin thought, that much was clear.
‘I have good taste, you know, Karin … he trusts my taste. He knows how I feel about it here. You will take it on?’
‘I’ll think about it. I’ll make some preliminary designs … do some costings … work out a time scheme.’
‘Of course, whatever you like.’
‘Not with the design and planning – that would be down to me – but I want hands-on help pretty early … I wasn’t well a year ago and I take a bit of care.’
‘Oh, I’m so sorry … what happened to you?’
Karin hesitated. One of the things Mike had said he hated was living no longer with a wife but with a cancer victim. Her entire being had been focused on her illness, her time and energy and drive had been given up to it, for too long. It had come to define her. That had to stop. She shrugged and jumped off the wall.
‘It’s not important,’ she said lightly, ‘it’s over and dealt with. I just want to keep it that way.’
Lucia had the best brand of American good manners. She smiled and the subject was dropped.
‘Let’s go round to the west of the house,’ she said, ‘there is the most perfect walled kitchen garden … well, the wall is half there, but it’s just wild. I so want to grow all our own fresh stuff – vegetables, salads, fruit, herbs. I’d even like to start a business of this, you know, an organic garden store? I care so much about preserving the land, growing with respect. I think we have the land on trust, don’t you? And because I’m just a newcomer, jumped in on your territory, I really so want to nurture and respect it.’
Coming from anyone else it would have sounded phoney.
‘This is where you and I do shake hands,’ Karin said. ‘Organic fresh produce is my own passion. I’d love to take on a project like this.’
Lucia turned to her, kissed her on both cheeks, and then danced off again.
They went on happily towards where a broken gate led into the old kitchen garden. Karin felt a burst of energy and renewal. The place and the girl were filling her with enthusiasm and a bubbling up of excitement. She realised she had barely thought about either Mike’s absence or her illness since arriving here. Instead, she had started to plan and dream and urge herself forward.
Lucia caught her shoe in a tuft of weeds, wobbled and fell over. She lay there for a split second looking startled and then began to laugh, and as she laughed, lifted her legs and pulled off her shoes and threw them in the air. She turned to Karin.
‘Well, doesn’t that just serve me damn well right?’
They laughed, there in the warmth of the sun that came off the old brick walls, until they were crying with it.
‘Darling, how nice! Are you staying for tea?’
Whatever had happened in her world or the world in general, Simon thought, his mother would never present anything other than this calm, cool charming face to it. She looked as elegant as ever in a pale blue cashmere sweater and navy jeans. Her hair was swept up, her brooch and necklace were in place.
He put his arms round her. ‘I think you’ll look like this at the Second Coming, Ma. “Darling, how nice! Are you staying for tea?”’
‘Well, I hope I shall be polite, and don’t call me Ma.’
‘No, Ma. Any cake?’
‘Probably. Tell me about Marilyn Angus. I thought that broadcast was perfectly shocking. Whoever set her up to do it?’
‘She’s in a very bad state – unsurprisingly.’
‘No need to slate the police in that way – of course you are doing everything. And I do so dislike these public parades of grief. Well, are you any nearer to finding the little boy?’
‘It is simply unimaginable. Who has done this, Simon?’
‘A pervert … a psychopath … a random murderer. I came for some tea and cake, Ma.’
‘Darling, I know, I’m sorry, I am thoughtless.’
‘And to ask why you rang me in such a state the other night.’
He looked at Meriel closely. She opened her eyes wider.
‘I was in no such thing.’
‘Your message was a bit odd … panicky?’
‘Why on earth should you think that?’
‘You tell me.’
‘I simply wanted … well, now, I have fixed a date for a short service, but I did want to check it with you. The stone which will cover Martha’s ashes is ready. It will be in the walled burial ground behind the cathedral of course … and the stone is very plain. It’s made of Welsh slate.’
‘What does it say?’
‘Martha Felicity Serrailler, her dates and then “Blessed are the pure in heart”.’
‘I like that.’
She had put her spectacles on and was flicking through the diary. He watched her. He knew her too well. Something had made her agitated.
‘Here we are … Sunday May 12th. At two. We’ll gather in the Lady Chapel – only the family and one or two others, nothing formal. Is that all right with you?’
‘Fine. Is Dad in?’
‘He’s playing golf. Now … cake. Yes.’
‘Are you sure something wasn’t worrying you when you rang me?’
But his mother had gone towards the larder. Simon filled the kettle and began to take down cups and saucers. Something had been wrong but there was no point in pushing at it. She had blocked it out and she would not now refer to it again.
As she came back carrying a couple of cake tins there was a ring at the front doorbell.
‘Darling, that will be Karin McCafferty – she did say she might come – will you let her in?’
Karin was looking well, better than Simon remembered. She had lost a strained look about her eyes and a gauntness. She even seemed to walk in with more vitality and confidence.
‘I knew you’d want to hear all about it.’ She sat down at the table, at ease in this house as people always were when his father was not around. Even he felt the lightness in the atmosphere.
‘I should say so. Karin has been up to Seaton Vaux.’
‘I hear money is no object.’
‘Certainly isn’t. The estate village is looking brighter already – the roofs are being repaired, everything’s being painted, fencing is getting mended for the first time in half a century. And the house and gardens are going to be amazing.’
‘And you got the job?’ Meriel brought the teapot to the table.
‘It’s a bit more complicated than that. I think I did … but it’s a huge project, beyond me on my own. I did try to explain that I wasn’t a Chelsea Gold Medal winner with twenty years of experience.’
‘And how was the beautiful young Mrs Philips?’
‘Beautiful. Bubbling. She’s like a child – she is a child. It’s a strange set-up. He’s fifty-six, she’s twenty-two. He wasn’t there, she was flying back to London later in the helicopter. It’s another world.’
‘You mustn’t do yourself down, Karin. You take that contract. You can always employ other people. But you’re good enough and you know it.’
‘Hm. It is exciting.’
‘I don’t suppose you’d have any use for a young man who trained in horticulture – market gardening – and who needs a job?’
‘Just who is this, Simon?’ Meriel interrupted, suspiciously.
‘Someone I’ve had to do with lately. He’s young and fit. All right … he’s an ex-con.’
But Karin waved her away. ‘Yes,’ she said to Simon, ‘I would. Tell me a bit more.’
Later, as he was leaving, the station called.
‘Message, guv … DCS Jim Chapman from the North Yorkshire force is on his way down to start on the Angus case review. He’ll meet you first thing tomorrow.’
If anyone thought DCI Serrailler felt in any way put out by the appearance of someone senior from an outside force coming in to conduct this review, they could not have been more wrong, he thought, as he drove back to Lafferton. He needed a new pair of eyes on the case, a new view of things. They had trawled over the ground and they were stale and exhausted, all of them. If someone else could give them a fillip and spot something, anything, they might have overlooked, all the better. It was going to be a shot in the arm, not an insult.
The meeting was scheduled for nine o’clock. At eight twenty, the telephone rang as Serrailler was walking into his office.
‘I’ve got Mrs Angus for you.’
He hesitated. He had neither seen nor spoken to Marilyn since the television interview but he had calmed down enough to feel able to talk to her. Nevertheless, he took a deep breath. He needed to hold fast to the understanding that what she had done had been without malice, simply in the extremes of grief and distress.
‘I’ll speak to her.’
Marilyn dispensed with any small talk and said without preamble, ‘I just wanted you to know what I plan. I have got some people together … I’ve asked them to begin a search for David.’
‘I know what you are going to say but I don’t feel enough has been done.’
‘I can assure you that is absolutely not the case and we’re not speaking in the past tense – everything is being done and will continue to be done.’
‘Yet you are no nearer to finding him. I don’t think the searches can have been thorough enough. I’m not satisfied and I won’t be satisfied until I know they’re being done again … that’s what I wanted to tell you. I will organise teams and –’
‘You do understand that members of the public have no rights of access, no authority to go into or on to private property?’
‘Is there anything to prevent them asking for permission to search and then going ahead once we have it? I don’t think there is.’
‘I have to caution you –’
‘I’m sure you do. But I’m going to carry on nevertheless. I simply can’t stand this … this nothingness … I feel impotent and I feel angry.’
‘And I do sincerely understand those feelings, believe me.’
‘Then let me get on with this. I’ve informed you out of courtesy. That’s all.’
‘Can we at least talk about this before –’
‘No. We’ll go on until we drop … or until we find David. I have to find him. There’s nothing else in my life of any importance at all, nothing else I have to do.’
Nathan put his head round the door. ‘Guv, you seen the papers?’
Simon groaned. ‘Bring them in.’
MISSING BOY’S MOTHER FORCED TO ORGANISE OWN SEARCH. ‘POLICE WERE CURSORY,’ SAYS MRS ANGUS. ‘I’LL FIND MY BOY MYSELF,’ VOWS ANGRY MOTHER.
Serrailler was in the middle of reading through the vitriol when the desk called up to tell him DCS Chapman had arrived. He dropped the papers on to the chair and went down. Jim Chapman was one of his force’s most senior officers, five years off retirement and with a reputation for thoroughness and dogged determination. He had been the SIO in two high-profile and highly successful murder hunts in Yorkshire and had the Queen’s Police Medal for Bravery. When Serrailler told him he was privileged to be working with him, he meant it. Chapman was a big man with close-cropped grey hair and heavy-lidded eyes, a man with a broad Yorkshire accent and a surprisingly gentle manner.
The moment the door closed on the two of them in Serrailler’s office, he said, ‘I want you to know I’m for you not against you. I’m here to help not to undermine. I’m an addition not a replacement.’
‘Thanks, that’s appreciated.’
‘And’ – Chapman pointed to the papers – ‘I’ve read them.’
‘I’ve called a press conference for ten o’clock.’
‘You’d no alternative. It’s always a problem. The mother’s distraught, they always believe we’re not doing enough and of course we’re not, no human being on earth is doing enough for her unless they find the boy. The father took his own life?’
‘Yes. I think it tipped her over the edge – and do you wonder? How do you want to begin, sir?’
‘I’m Jim. I’m always Jim. As I said, I’m on side. I’d like to talk to the team briefly, then get this press conference out of the way. I’ll sit in but I’ll not speak. This is your call. After those buggers have gone we’ll get down to it. I’ve read most of t’paperwork on the way down and last night. Fill me in on the rest.’
Simon did, going through the team one by one, giving their background, personality, particular strengths. The DCS listened, said nothing, made no notes.
‘No weak links?’
‘No. We’ve as good a team as you could find … They’re demoralised just now but they’re still bloody-minded about it.’
‘No one gone sick?’
‘Signs of strain?’
‘No more than you’d expect.’
‘Aye, it takes its toll, this sort of inquiry. They’d rather face bullets. We all would.’
‘Do you want to talk to Mrs Angus?’
‘Mebbe. Not for now. Where’s your canteen?’
‘I’ll get something brought in for you, we’ve –’
But the DCS was on his feet. ‘I don’t want special treatment,’ he said, walking out. ‘Downstairs or up?’
‘Down.’ Serrailler followed him quickly along the corridor.
The press conference was an unpleasant business. Marilyn Angus’s television interview had swung them all. Even the local reporters, who were always helpful, asked aggressive questions, vying with the big boys from television and the national press to be confrontational. They demanded action, they demanded answers, they pressed on detail. Serrailler was a match for them every time. He had always enjoyed a bit of combat, and he maintained a cool, sympathetic but not self-defensive stand. There was a lot of grumbling and muttering from the assembly, but they left meekly enough.