“What? We’re sitting doing cat’s cradle in the vehicle all night?”
“I didn’t say that. Next door to the courthouse building we’ve the run of terraced cottages, half a dozen of them, all offices, then the war memorial, then there’s two four-storey buildings which are being renovated.”
“There’s scaffolding and the frontage is covered in plastic. He could hole out there without much trouble.”
“He’s probably got a rifle with telescopics—he doesn’t need to be that close.”
“What if he isn’t using his rifle? He could be walking about with a handgun. Very difficult to suss that out in the sort of crowds we get at the fair, especially after dark,” Clive Rowley said.
Bronze Command shook his head. “He’d have no chance of getting away. This guy’s not a nutter who shoots to give himself up. He’s cunning. His close-range killings have been in places where he’s made pretty sure there’d be no witnesses and he could make an easy getaway. That just wouldn’t be possible here even without all of us. OK, let’s go back to the plan. There will be our two ARVs and Bevham are lending us one for backup. Here …”
Clive sat back and watched the pointer go over this entrance and that exit, this danger point and that. Steve Mason had slipped down into his seat and looked as if he was asleep with his eyes open.
“That’s it. We’ll have another briefing in here nine a.m. on Friday. Until then, don’t shove it out of the way, get that plan in your head. Brood on it. Come up with a bright idea, shout. You’re the sniper. Think like him. He’s clever. We’ve got to be cleverer.”
Ten minutes later they were filing out for refs. In an hour they would be on the way to the airfield for a training session. It was drizzling outside.
“What do you reckon?” Steve said, standing in the queue.
“Nothing’ll happen. Too obvious.”
“I’m not so sure. He could cause mayhem in five seconds … he’d love that, shooting at random,” Clive said.
“No, he’s got a reason for these killings. I reckon they’re personal.”
“Large tea, bacon and tomato bap, thanks. He must be a bloke with a hell of a lot of grudges then. Don’t think forensics have established any links, have they?”
“Come on,” Ian Dean said, piling four warm sausage rolls onto his plate, “no way are these random. There has to be links.”
“I don’t see it. I don’t see any of it, to be honest. I can’t get a handle on this guy.” Clive set his tray down and moved the sauce bottles out of the way. “I just think—putting half the county force onto the Jug Fair is a waste of resources. He’s not going to show.”
“A fiver says he will.”
“You’re on,” Clive said, taking a swig of tea. “That fiver’s got my name on it.”
Lois was there as ever on night-duty reception. Lois, pleased to see her and ready with a warm hug of welcome.
But then Jane caught her expression. “I’m too late,” she said.
“Yes. Karin died about an hour ago.”
Jane sat down. She felt tired, cold and frustrated. The storms had caused such appalling delays and rerouting that she was here at ten when she should have made it by five.
“Come into the kitchen, I’ll make you a hot drink. Have you eaten?”
“No, but I’m not hungry. I should go and see her.”
“Have this first. No hurry now.”
No. No hurry. Karin had waited for her as long as she could but Jane had let her down. It was not her fault, of course it was not, but she felt guilty nevertheless.
The fluorescent lights hummed as Lois switched them on and poured water into the kettle.
“Poor Jane. Nothing more upsetting.”
“I wanted to be with her. She wanted me to be with her.”
“I know.” She did not give out false comfort. Lois was a realist.
She set down a mug of tea and a plate of biscuits. “Dunk one,” she said, “I know you said you weren’t hungry but somehow a dunked biscuit always goes down.”
It was true. Jane followed her out to the reception foyer. From the far end of the corridor she heard murmured voices, saw a light. A door closed.
“Do you know about Dr Deerbon?” Lois asked, back behind her computer.
“Yes, Cat told me. I was hoping to see her but I can’t very well go up to the farmhouse at this time of night.”
“I should think you of all people probably could. Why don’t you ring now?”
“She might be glad of it, you know.”
“Has she heard about Karin?”
“Not my place to ring her.”
Jane wondered what she could say to Cat, out of the blue, at ten thirty at night. Looked at Lois. Lois nodded.
“Look, go into the relatives’ room, I’ll switch the phone through.”
It was picked up on the second ring.
“It’s Jane,” she said. “I’m at Imogen House.”
Ten minutes later she was sitting beside Karin McCafferty. The nurses had not yet moved her body, though the syringe pump and drip stand had been taken away. The lamp was on. They had closed the door.
Karin looked like a moth under the bedclothes, her skin fine, and almost transparent over the bones, her hair brushed and tied back, lying on the slightly raised pillows. Jane took her cool hand and put it to her own cheek.
“I know you won’t blame me, but I should have been here. I wish I had been. I’m sorry.” Karin’s eyelids were faintly blue, like those of a newborn baby. She was beautiful in death, as she had been in life, but remote. Sometimes, Jane had been with the dying and the newly dead and had had a powerful sense of their presence. But not now. Karin was as far away as it was possible to be and had left no trace of herself behind.
Half an hour later, she was sitting with Cat beside a low fire in the farmhouse sitting room, a whisky in her hand, the rain lashing against the windows.
Cat was leaning back, eyes closed, her face drained of everything but exhaustion.
“A patient who was nursing her mother at home said to me, “I’m way beyond tired.” And this will get worse. It’s like lying down while someone rains blows on you but somehow each blow hurts in a different way.”
“How are the children?”
Cat shook her head. “The saving grace there is Judith Connolly. My father has been seeing her and she is amazing—calm, strong, easy-going, got the measure of him perfectly and fantastic with all three of the children. She’s fast becoming my rock, in the absence of Simon.”
Jane took a swig of her whisky. “Absence? But I saw him on the television news.”
“Yes, you did. That’s one reason for his absence and obviously the chief one—it’s tough for him. But what makes me mad is his stupid attitude to Judith. Si was always Mum’s blue-eyed boy but Mum is dead and he can’t take someone else being at Hallam House.”
“Doesn’t he see that it’s helping your father?”
Cat snorted. “He doesn’t choose to see. It’s a good job he’s so tied up with work and I’ve got Chris to worry about or I’d really lay into him.”
Jane said nothing. She had not been sure what she would feel, coming back here, hearing about him. Everything ought to be overshadowed by Karin’s death and Chris’s illness. She was acutely aware of Simon, nevertheless. He was associated so closely for her with this house and with his sister. Jane’s memories were more vivid than she ever expected.
“I never knew what happened exactly with you two,” Cat said now. “And feel free not to tell me.”
Jane set down her whisky glass. “I ran away,” she said. “That’s what happened.”
“You sure? Only it’s usually the other way round. Simon is the one who runs.”
Jane shook her head. “I ran. I didn’t know what I felt. I was in a very confused and fragile emotional state and I couldn’t cope with another factor being added to the mix. It ought to have helped but it made things worse.”
“A lot had happened to you. Awful things.”
“I needed to sort myself out.”
“And have you?”
“Not altogether. But I think I am slowly working my way towards it—whatever it may be. I thought it was going to be the abbey. I really did want to make that work, but I knew straight away that it wouldn’t. I knew when I lay in bed in my room there on the first night. I struggled on for six months and I’m glad I did.”
“One down, so to speak.”
“Yes. I feel much more confident about the next move. I want to do more academic work.”
“You mustn’t bury yourself in a library, Jane, you’re too good with people. A library is as bad as a convent.”
“But a library combined with students and a hospital is about right, don’t you think? I don’t deserve my luck.”
“As to that, which of us deserves what we get?” Cat shook her head, her eyes filling with tears. She got up and pushed the last of the logs together so that they burned up bright again. “Australia is as far away as a sunlit daydream.”
“Did you like it?”
“Not really. But we were happy together, and it was different, which always shakes you up. Looking back, it seems idyllic, frankly.”
“How is Chris coping? I don’t mean physically.”
“I don’t know. How strange that sounds. But I really don’t. At the moment, he’s just pretty doped and getting through the days, sleeping a lot, waiting for the radiotherapy to start. Everything else is just beyond him. And you know Chris … he doesn’t philosophise, he just gets on with it. The worst thing is, I can talk to patients about dying. I do talk to them. I think it’s important. I get them to tell me what they feel, I get their relatives to do the same. But I can’t do it with Chris. We talk about what’s going to happen medically, but otherwise … I can’t and he doesn’t. We have never ever had anything we couldn’t talk about, even if we argued. We often argued. But now there is this. It’s frozen us, somehow. I feel as if I’m acting a part. This isn’t me, this isn’t Chris, this isn’t us.”
“It’s strange. Karin believed so passionately in alternative medicine that she rejected everything you and I would accept—and probably Chris too.”
“Definitely Chris. He’s an evidence-based man. He won’t consider anything else. When it comes down to it, you know, not many doctors do.”
“What would you blame for Karin’s death? That she refused orthodox treatment?”
“Cancer is what I blame for her death, Jane. It’s what I will blame for Chris’s. But the longer I’m in medicine, the more I see of it, it becomes clear that what we know about cancer goes on one line that reads as follows: “You get it, or you don’t. You get better, or you don’t.” There’s another thing … I feel it ought to be me, I feel guilty. But inside, I’m just relieved that it isn’t me. That it’s someone else again, even if the someone is my husband. I’ve escaped. There now, I’ve said it.”
“But that’s what we all feel, isn’t it? The bullet missed me. Phew. No, that’s not the best analogy just now.”
“Are you going to see Simon, now you’re here?”
“I don’t know. Probably not. I have to go tomorrow, and you say he’s tied up with this investigation.”
“Stay with us for a few days. The children would love it and I won’t have much time for friends once Chris comes out of hospital.”
Jane was silent for a moment. She wanted to stay and she had no reason to be back in Cambridge yet. She might also see Simon. Did she want that? Yes. Should she?
“I’d like to very much. But I don’t think it would be a very good idea.”
It was Cat’s turn to say nothing.
It was chance. A beautiful chance. Roadworks had held him up for so long he’d tried a side route, taken a wrong turn off the bypass and found himself in Dedmeads Road.
One end led into the new Ashdown estate, a large and still growing area of private housing, interlacing cul-de-sacs off a main avenue. The completed houses were furthest away. From Dedmeads Road it was still a building site, half-finished houses and garage blocks, unmade roads, scaffolding, pieces of scrub which would be turfed as the final job. Of the completed houses, many were still unsold. Developers’ flags flew outside a couple of show houses.
At the north end, down which he had just come, one road of identical 1960s houses led to the bypass and away.
He stopped. Got out and looked around. He had the very dirty silver Focus. You saw a dozen of them every half-hour.
It was nine ten. School was in. Workers in. Dedmeads Road was empty apart from a few mothers with toddlers and push chairs gossiping in a cluster outside the row of shops.
He got back into the car and drove on down. Parked near the shopping block but not near enough to have anyone pay attention to the car or the number plate.
The mothers huddled closer as he walked past and into the post office-cum-newsagent’s, and bought a paper and a packet of chewing gum.
“Going to rain for the weekend again.”
“Right bugger then.”
“Eighty pence. Cheers.”
“See you later.”
He walked out, reading the front page of the redtop. The shopkeeper had forgotten him before he reached the door.
Newsagent’s. Chinese fish and chip shop, closed. Launderette, two people inside, busy at the machines, not noticing him as he glanced through the windows. Late night grocer. Louise, Ladies’ Hairdresser. He walked straight by, looking at the paper; the place had a venetian blind down, slats open. No one saw him. Empty shop. Empty card-display stands pulled into the middle. Dirty windows. Piles of junk mail on the floor below the letter box.
That was it. He walked on, past a block of semis. Then the low brick wall. A gravel car park. Bit of grass. Three or four trees. Blue sign. Gold lettering.
Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church
Times of Mass: daily at 8 a.m.; Sundays and Holy Days.
8 a.m., 9 a.m., 10.30 a.m., 4 p.m.
Confessions: Saturdays and Thursdays, 6–7.30 p.m.
Priest: Father G. Nolan, The Presbytery,
40 Dedmeads Road.
Bare-looking 1960s brick. Bright blue, yellow and green stained glass on either side of the light oak doors. Three shallow steps up. Wide gateway. Low iron gates, open and hooked back against the wall.