‘You don’t get to ask her name,’ growled Peterson.
‘Peterson! James,’ said Erika ‘Let him go!’ said Erika placing her hands over his.
‘We don’t choose to be like this, you know,’ croaked Marksman his head flopping back and forwards. Suddenly Joel was at Erika’s side and he had a powerful forearm wrapped around Peterson’s neck.
‘Let him go. Or I’ll break your neck,’ he said calmly.
‘We are police officers, we need to calm down here,’ said Erika moving to look directly at Peterson.
‘This constitutes an assault and I’d be with my rights,’ said Joel.
‘No one is going to do anything. Peterson let go, and you, take your hands off him,’ said Erika. There was a brief stand off for a moment and then Peterson let go of Marksman who slumped back in the chair. Joel let go of Peterson, but stood close his nostrils flaring breathing down on Peterson.
‘Back off,’ said Peterson.
‘No way mate.’
‘Peterson. I want you to leave. I’ll call you… Go NOW!’ said Erika. He glowered at them all and then left.
They settled back down and when Marksman was comfortable in his chair again, his clothes straight, he motioned for Joel to leave.
‘I’m sorry about that,’ said Erika. ‘I came here to ask you questions as a witness, and I expected you to be treated that way.’
‘I’ve looked over your statement and it says you followed Jessica on the 5th, 6th and you were watching her on the morning of the 7th August outside her house.’
‘I was in love with her… I can see you grimace. But you have to understand I can’t control how I feel. I’m repulsed by my desires, I cannot control them. She was a beautiful little girl. I first saw her at the local newsagent with her mother. It was maybe early June in 1990. She wore a blue dress and her hair was in a matching blue ribbon. Her hair was luminous and she was holding her little brothers hand while her mother paid the newspaper bill. I remember he was pulling faces and she kept laughing. It was like music.’
‘Okay. How did they seem, as a family?’
‘Happy go lucky. Although…’
‘Twice I saw Jessica with the mother and the sister…They were out at the local play park a few minutes from the house. Jessica was playing and they were sat at a bench having rows.’
‘I don’t know. I couldn’t hear from where I was.’
‘Where was that?’
’There was a bench on the opposite side of the park.’
‘And you took pictures of Jessica?’
‘And some video too. I won a camcorder, in a competition at the Co-op…’ his eyes lit up and for the for a moment he smiled at the memory. His skin crinkled upwards as one pulling his eyes tighter.
‘It got quite vicious on one occasion. Marianne slapped Laura across the face. She also used to slap Jessica on the legs quite frequently. But I suppose it was a long time ago. These days people would be shocked, back then it was usual to slap your children. And those Catholics know all about meteing out corporal punishment.’
‘Laura had just turned nineteen, and her mother slapped her around the face.’
Marksman nodded and then rested his chin on his chest, the scar tissue bunching up like crepe paper.
‘She slapped her mother back, gave as good as she got.’
‘What happened to those videos and photos?’
‘They were seized by the police. They were never returned to me. I don’t know why, it’s just video of a park.’
‘Did you see anyone else suspicious?’
‘Apart from me? God, I don’t know. There was that local loon, Bob Jennings.’
Erika sat up, ‘What was he doing?’
‘He was a council gardener. Bit slow, so they got him cheap no doubt. He was there a couple of times clipping hedges. He was harmless though, they questioned him, but nothing came of it. I always thought it was of his connections.’
‘He was a homeless loner wasn’t he?’
‘Yeah, but from money. He has a sour faced old bitch of a sister. If she’s alive, she probably is. The blue blooded ones always go on forever.’
‘Who is his sister?’
‘The honourable Rosemary Hooley.’
It was late when Erika and Peterson arrived in Hayes. They had joined the rush hour crowds and taken a direct train back from London Bridge. Peterson had been apologetic, but Erika was more excited by their lead.
‘Why didn’t Rosemary mention that Bob Jennings was her brother?’ she said speaking in a low voice. They had to stand, packed in at the back of a crowded carriage.
‘And she knew we’d just found, you know who in the you know where,’ muttered Peterson. A short sweaty man was crushed in beside them with a paper but he was staring. He looked away when they both turned to him.
‘I want to talk to her and I don’t care how bloody honourable she is,’ said Erika leaning into Peterson’s ear.
It was a short walk up from the station. Several lame fireworks whizzed into the sky and popped, and there was a faint smell of woodsmoke.
Rosemary Hooley had said she lived at the Old Vicarage, and it was one of an idyllic line of stone houses facing the west side of the common, by the Croydon Road entrance.
The smell of woodsmoke grew stronger as they opened the low front gate and came into the front garden of the vicarage. The house was thatched, and the front beautifully kept, with a neat mossy lawn dotted with dead leaves and over looked by two low windows with stone arches. One of the windows was double aspect, and through a cosy little front room, where a fire blazed, they caught a glimpse of Rosemary Hooley stood in the back garden, nursing a small pile of hedge clippings to light. They began to smoke violently. When Erika closed the gate the blond Labrador heard and came bounding round the corner, bowling towards them so fast, and only stopping inches away.
‘Serge!’ cried Rosemary coming to a side gate leading round to the back garden. She saw Erika and Peterson and took a breath,
‘Ah, I thought I’d see you both again. ‘Tea?’
‘Yes, thank you,’ said Erika. Rosemary pulled off her battered gloves and indicated they should follow.