‘She was in her room. She was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. She took her mac. I think she went through the kitchen into the pantry. She took some food. She’s gone off on her own. There are no traces of a struggle, no blood, no one else’s fingerprints. The house is clean as a whistle.’
‘Thought it would be. Can you get anything from the garden?’
‘We’ll be back in the morning, go into all the gardens on the neighbouring houses. For now, that’s it.’
Simon went towards the front door of the house. The lights were on in every room, the rest of the forensic team leaving. He waited until they had gone and the vans had driven away. It went quiet then, though uniform were still going from house to house. He thought how different it would be if this was happening on the Dulcie estate – everyone would be out on the street, or at doors and windows, kids would be following the officers, women shouting at them; someone would probably even bring out mugs of tea. Here, curtains and blinds stayed drawn. One or two had glanced out when the cars had arrived, but they stayed firmly, privately within. Nothing might have been happening at all. Now, lights were going off. No one stood at their doorway looking out and it would not have crossed any of their minds to produce trays of tea.
But at the door of the Angus house, he hesitated. If Marilyn Angus was reported as ‘incoherent’, seeing him, the one person perhaps more than any other she associated so closely with David’s continuing disappearance, might well not help her. He had no news, nothing to offer. Others had asked enough questions for tonight.
He turned away again.
It was a soft, mild night and the gardens smelled of fresh grass and turned earth. Of spring. He tried to picture the two children, one certainly dead, one still possibly alive. How did a woman cope with the weeks-long disappearance of her son, the suicide of her husband, and now the fact that her second child was missing? This was one of the times when he found police work agonising.
When she had reached the door of the workshop she had worried that Archie would start to bark so she spoke his name softly as she went down the dark garden. He was waiting, standing up and wagging his tail, and he bumped himself against her when she went inside. She put her bag down on the bench and sat on the floor beside him and the Labrador came and lay beside her and licked her hands. He smelled doggy and his body was heavy and very warm.
It was only when she felt safe, settled in beside him, that she let herself think. Her mother would go upstairs and might open her door and say goodnight, or might just call from the landing. Before, she had always come in. They had talked. It had been a good time of the day. Before.
No one had talked properly since. There had been terrible whispered conversations from which she had been excluded, and brief words if she had asked questions; not talking. Since her father had died it had been worse.
The dog leaned forward and snuffled her face with his wet nose.
Before, she had known David was the most important, more loved, of more interest to them, but she had not minded. It had been true. He was interesting and lovable. But once he had gone she ought to have moved up into the space he had left and instead she had been pushed down and down until, in the end, she had become invisible.
She had loved the house. Now she hated it. There was a thick grey silence everywhere, as though no air or daylight had come into it from that day. But her own room was the same and so she stayed there.
She reached for her bag and took out the biscuits, though she was not hungry. But she had brought them and so they were to be eaten, and anyway, it was something to do. She could see a little now that her eyes were used to the dark.
She hadn’t worked out exactly how long she would stay in the workshop. They might find her. They might never find her. She could come out when she chose.
After a while, the dog lay down and she lay down with him, pulling the blankets from his bed over them both. She talked to Archie then. The dog gave great sighs from time to time and she went on talking until everything she had thought and felt was out there, in the quiet dark spaces of the workshop among the tools and the pictures of fighter planes.
She slept for a short time.
The lights wakened her first, and then the sound of the cars. Archie stood up ready to bark but she quietened him.
She supposed eventually people would find the workshop.
There had been no lights on in the Prices’ house when she had crept down the garden and their car had not been in the drive.
But no one came. Lucy opened the workshop door and listened. She heard more cars, and voices out in the street. Saw the lights go up, like the floodlights at the sports ground. She felt a flutter of excitement in her stomach.
Archie lay down. After a while, so did she, and then slept again, her arms round the dog’s neck.
‘Simon, darling, please, please return this call … please just pick up the phone to me once.’
‘Si, give me a ring.’
It was almost midnight and his sister’s message had been timed ten minutes earlier. He took a chance.
‘Hope you weren’t asleep.’
‘No, the young man is having a social time. I’m downstairs. Any news?’
‘Lucy? No, but I’m confident we’ll find her.’
‘You haven’t found David.’
‘Different. We’re fairly sure she’s taken herself off somewhere. It’s a gesture, probably. Are you all OK? It sounded a bit urgent.’
‘Yes and no. Look, it’s a bit late. Come to supper tomorrow?’
‘Depends on all this. Talk now or I’ll lie awake.’
‘OK, here goes, but don’t shoot the messenger.’
‘I had a visitor this afternoon … Diana Mason came.’
‘She came to the farmhouse? Just turned up? Bloody hell.’
‘Calm, Si. Deep breaths.’
‘How dare she? She doesn’t even know you. How did she find you? She’d absolutely no right to come there, trying to get at you, discussing me –’
‘I’m sick to death of her, she’s turning into a stalker. What do I have to say or do to make it plain to her? How can I get through?’
There was silence from Cat as he ranted. In the end, he sat down and drew a deep breath.
‘No, it’s fine, you go ahead, get it off your chest. Whatever “it” is.’
‘Mind your own bloody business.’
‘I didn’t hear that.’
‘God, I’m sorry. I’m bushed and this has wound me up.’
‘Forget her. Not a problem.’
‘It is for her.’
‘I can’t help there.’
‘No,’ he said.
‘Listen, I didn’t swap girly confidences, I didn’t give her any information and certainly no encouragement. But I did feel sorry for her. I think she’s had a raw deal. Try and behave a bit less selfishly and give a little, Simon. This keeps happening and you’ve got to sort it, don’t you think? See someone, talk to someone. You’ll end up miserable and so will a lot of other people. If Freya hadn’t –’
‘Shut up. Leave Freya out of this conversation.’
‘Because that was different … and none of this has anything to do with you.’
‘Freya wasn’t different, Freya is different, Simon, and that’s because she’s dead, and so she’s safe – a safe woman. You can kid yourself it was all going to be fine because you never had to face real life with her. Easy to love a ghost.’
‘I’m not listening to any more of this. What the hell is it all about anyway?’
‘It’s about my having had a very unhappy woman in my house all afternoon. You don’t have to go on seeing her, but you do have to give her some sort of explanation. You can’t just wordlessly drop people.’
‘I’m going to put the phone down. You and I are about to quarrel seriously.’
‘We already have. I’ve got to get through to you because no one else ever has.’
‘Or nothing. Felix has gone to sleep and I’m going to bed. But just think about it, Si. It matters.’
The phone clicked off.
There were a few seconds, during which he had indeed started to think, before his mobile interrupted.
‘We’ve found her. And she’s fine.’
After he had been given the details and had told Nathan to go home, Simon poured himself a whisky. He wanted to blot it out, blot out what had been said, blot out the memories of Freya and the intrusions of Diana Mason, everything. Only the news that Lucy Angus was safe gave him a measure of comfort.
‘Can I have a dog?’
Lucy sat drinking a mug of tea. She looked composed.
She ran away, Marilyn thought. She wanted not to be here. She wanted to be in a dark garden shed belonging to someone else, with their dog, rather than be in this house with me. She had looked at her coming up the drive between the two constables, a huge blanket wrapped round her shoulders, and seen someone she barely knew.
‘Don’t be angry, please don’t be angry.’ Lucy had started to shiver.
‘Of course I’m not angry. You’re here, you’re alive … I couldn’t …’
Lucy had walked past her mother into the kitchen.
It was ten past one. Neither of them wanted to sleep.
‘You never let us.’
‘It’s difficult … it wouldn’t be fair.’
‘On a dog left by itself all day. We’re … I’m out.’
‘Nothing’s the same.’
‘So we could have a dog.’
‘David’s allergic to animal hair.’
Lucy looked her in the eyes. There was a moment of appalling silence.
‘David’s not here,’ Lucy said at last.
The air in the kitchen seemed to contain something which made breathing difficult.
‘Dad’s not here. Everything in the house was dead.’
‘I wasn’t dead.’
‘You seemed dead.’
‘It was good being with the Prices’ dog.’
‘You shouldn’t have broken in.’
‘I didn’t break in, the workshop’s open. Why don’t you answer me? You never do. I think I’m not here. Can we have a dog?’
‘Lucy, let me … please … I’m tired. I don’t like making sudden decisions.’
‘If you mean no, say it, don’t just not answer.’
‘I don’t mean no. I don’t know what I mean. I couldn’t take any more of this … everything. Didn’t you think of that? Didn’t you think about me at all?’
‘Yes,’ Lucy said. She got up, took her mug to the sink, rinsed it and put it in the rack. ‘I thought about you. Goodnight.’
‘Lucy, don’t just walk out like that, we haven’t talked properly, you haven’t explained.’
‘Yes I have. You just didn’t hear me. Like about the dog.’
She went out, moving in the way she did now, her feet seeming to glide just above the floor, making no sound or stir of the air. She went upstairs. The house still felt dead but something had changed. She had made a difference just by going away. She had made a mark.
She hesitated on the landing, then went on up the final flight to the top. She pushed open the door of his room. It smelled of him, a boy smell that had not yet gone. But it will go, Lucy thought. Everything will fade soon. I won’t remember him, his smell will not be here, his things just sit on the shelves and they are dead things.
She went round quietly, touching them. His books. His models. His computer. His Harry Potter lamp. His Lord of the Rings figures. His shoes. She wondered if it was going to be left like this for ever, like a castle full of sleeping people in a fairy tale.
She had known inside herself almost from the beginning that her brother was dead and she had just accepted it. All the time her parents had gone on about never giving up hope, she had looked at them and seen strangers who would not listen. David was dead. How could he not be?
It saddened her because he had always been there in his own odd little world, but a part of their world too, a part of hers. She hated to think about how he had died. She made her thoughts swerve away from it every time they threatened to invade her head. She went to sit on the window ledge and look down over the dark garden. She wondered if they would ever find his body or catch whoever had taken him. She had no feelings of certainty about that. Just about his being dead.
In the end, her legs got cramp and she slipped down from the ledge and glided out of her brother’s room.
The house was silent again. Dead. She didn’t know whether her mother had gone to bed or not. She was used to not knowing. Leaving home had made no difference to anything. In her own room, she lay and thought of dogs. Archie. Another dog. A dog of her own. Her dog would change things.
She lay down, closed her eyes and began to conjure up the perfect dog.
Along the hall, Marilyn lay in the same way, made the same shape in the bed. But they were not alike. She had never wanted them to be alike. She had never really wanted a girl. When she was pregnant with Lucy she had believed she was carrying a boy, longed for a boy and been shocked when it was not. She remembered looking her daughter in the eye, soon after she was born, and seeing someone with bold challenging eyes and a face too like her own, an attitude. Inevitably – though it had taken several days – she had loved Lucy. Who did not love their firstborn? After a time, she had enjoyed having a girl.
With her second pregnancy she had not dared to expect or to hope for anything, just planned for a second daughter. David had been a joyous, miraculous surprise. Beside him, everything and everyone else in her world had receded, become shadowy and colourless. Having David, she felt she had been resurrected as a new person, invincible, all-loved. The hardest thing to bear, apart from the loss of him, was her own guilt. She had loved him too much, favoured him over all, and so he had been taken away from her. She had struggled to love Lucy since David’s birth and, in a way, of course she had loved her – but it had never again been real, felt, all-absorbing love. If her daughter had been taken and never returned, the pain would have been great but bearable, just as the pain of losing Alan was bearable. In any case, she was angry with Alan, hurt at being abandoned and let down by him and amazed at his weakness.