All of those, but most of all, he realised, as he ran over the bridge and along the opposite towpath, he was angry at himself, because somehow or other his guard had been down, and while it was, he had met Rachel.
At some moment he could not pinpoint but very soon after he had first seen her, he had been unguarded enough to fall in love. He leaned against a tree trunk to get his breath. Admission. He had stopped playing games in his head and now, he saw that it made things both clear and rather simple.
Simple, though, was not easy, was not straightforward. Simple was only the start of his problems. Their problems.
He ran through the centre of Lafferton, still in its Sunday quiet. As he slowed his pace in the close, people were coming out of the cathedral after the eight o’clock communion, including his sister, who stood talking to someone. He waved but he could hardly go over to them in his present state, sweaty and wearing running kit. He was sure Cat had seen him, which meant she would come up to the flat for coffee. He ran up the stairs two at a time, showered, dressed. Switched on the coffee machine, took milk out of the fridge and put it on to warm, waiting for the sound of her footsteps on the stairs.
They didn’t come.
He was picking up the phone to call her when it rang. His heart jumped, but it wasn’t Cat. Or Rachel. There had been a flurry of calls about the young woman. Nothing looked urgent but they thought he ought to have an update.
Fifteen minutes later he was banging in through the doors of the station.
Mrs Angela Pilbur, 56 Laurel Grove, Lafferton. ‘The face is quite familiar. I think I saw this girl a couple of weeks ago in the marketplace. She had a toddler with her. It’s very like her anyway. I remember because she was telling the child off a bit roughly.’
Sally Gloman, 112c Wishart Road, Bevham. ‘This is my friend Lu. She used to live in Bevham then she went abroad. I haven’t seen her for ages, two years maybe, haven’t heard from her. I wondered if anything awful had happened. This has to be Lu. Oh my God.’
Glen Robertson, by email. ‘I happened to catch this on the Web. I’m British, living over in Berlin for a year. This is a strong likeness to a girlfriend I had who came from Sweden. She was blonde but this is her, maybe darkened her hair. It was a good five years ago but I thought I ought to contact you.’
Mrs Poynter, Handley Cottage, Fishhook, nr Lafferton. ‘This girl used to live in the village here. Only for a short time. It was a while ago now. I remember her quite well. We spoke once or twice. She was foreign. Seemed a bit nervous. Not sure where she lived, but she said “in the village”. Only it must have been, what, fourteen, fifteen years ago now. Before they built the new houses.’
Gerry Bright, 41 Pint Corner, Rimming, nr Exeter. ‘I know this girl, she was an au pair with some people near here. I think she came from Romania or Hungary, that sort of place.’
Deena Wanowska, Warsaw. ‘Is my sister. Came to England 1993. Never came back. Please say not. But is my sister, I know.’
There were half a dozen others from the usual insane or desperate attention-seekers. He read them again, deleting those whose dates did not match. He kept those from Exeter, Warsaw and Fishhook.
There was a message from the BBC producer with an update. The reconstruction was taking place in two days’ time and the programme would go out the following Friday. Simon was to liaise with the crew at the Cadsdens’ former house, from where they would begin filming.
The station was quiet. He could hear someone banging on a cell door, then stop. Start again. A phone rang. Nothing else.
He got out a clean sheet of paper. When he wanted to work something out carefully, he never did it on his computer. He could think best with a pen in his hand. An hour later two sheets were covered with a sketch map of Lafferton. He took a third sheet, and drew a map of where the two graves had been found, the bypass, the access road onto the site, the two lanes that led away, and their direction. He connected those to the area in which Harriet had last been seen, noted down landmarks, routes leading to and from Lafferton, Bevham, the villages closest to the Moor.
He studied it for some time after he had finished, tracing it over in his mind until he had a clear image which he would not now forget. Links and queries would come to him, and he would make mental notes and when he was here, sketch them in. There was something about the act of drawing it all out carefully which had helped him in the past, some sub-conscious process that went to work.
The canteen was closed and he had eaten nothing. The Cypriot café did not open on Sunday. Lafferton was a food desert, other than bar snacks in the pubs. He needed to think too. The country pubs were always packed at lunchtime on Sundays.
He wanted to drive to the farmhouse in the hopes of lunch. Usually, he would simply arrive, sometimes remembering to text that he was on his way, but today, he was unsure if he would be welcome.
He wondered about Rachel. Did she and her husband have lunch together? Did she cook? Could he feed himself? Where did they sit? What was the house like? Large. Yes. Almost certainly too large, like John Lowther’s house. They had no children. Or did they? He realised that he had no idea. She had not mentioned any and people usually did. But perhaps not in this case.
He went to his computer and found her address. Their address.
The road had no sign and there were only a dozen or so houses, set well back. He drove slowly down and was about to turn when he saw it.
It was quiet. No children. No animals. He edged towards the entrance and looked at the house. Her car was in the drive but there was no sign of life. He willed her to come out, knowing that if she did he couldn’t speak to her or even let her know he was there. Years of hanging about outside houses when he was first in CID meant that he was good at concealment and at making a fast exit. But she knew his car, knew him. If she came out … If.
He waited. Waited longer. Waited forty minutes. She did not come out, no one did. Nothing changed.
But he knew where she lived. He could picture it, picture her there.
It was madness.
It was better than nothing.
Judith’s car was next to Cat’s outside the farmhouse. Simon cursed that he had arrived without warning, and now had to encounter his father and stepmother as well as an annoyed sister, but before he had got out, the front door had opened on Sam, Felix and the Yorkshire terrier Wookie, and Felix was hurling himself at Simon’s legs, Sam standing back with his usual reserve but looking pleased.
‘Didn’t know you were coming. Mum didn’t say.’
‘She didn’t know either. Hello, blasted dog, stop leaping up my leg.’ He swung Felix onto his shoulders.
‘Grandpa and Judith here for lunch?’
‘No, it’s just Judith, but she only came about half an hour ago. She seems to be a bit upset.’
Simon bent down so that he could get Felix through the doorway. He glanced in to see Cat and Judith sitting at the kitchen table and made a business of swinging Felix round and round, before putting him down.
‘There isn’t any food left,’ Cat said. ‘And actually, Si …’
He had not looked at Judith properly but now he did and saw that she was tense, her face strained and without its usual pleasant, happy expression.
‘Sorry, I’ve obviously barged in …’
‘No, Simon, it’s fine.’ Judith got up. ‘Coffee? And I’m sure we can rustle up some food.’
‘There isn’t any,’ Cat said. ‘Molly’s Rob finished off the joint and the last veg. There might be some crust of blackberry and apple pie. You didn’t say anything about lunch.’
Judith looked at Simon. ‘I’m having coffee.’
‘Be great. Thanks.’
‘Oh Felix, not again.’
Felix was staring ruefully at the chocolate ice cream all over his T-shirt and shorts.
‘You have to ask me before takings things out of the freezer. Come on.’ Cat turned her son round and propelled him swiftly out, banging the door.
‘All because I forgot to turn up for supper?’
‘I don’t think so,’ Judith said. ‘She’s feeling pretty low. Not your fault.’
‘Nothing in particular. Being a single parent is hard, no matter how much help you’ve got. And she’s had a big wave of missing Chris. You do. I know. I couldn’t function at all sometimes, for years after Don died. She’ll be all right. Let her come round.’
She poured water into the cafetière.
‘What about you?’ Simon asked, getting down two mugs.
‘Me? Oh, I’m all right.’
He waited until she turned round. Caught her eye.
Judith shrugged. ‘Nothing.’
‘Dad?’ He carried the cafetière to the table. ‘Listen, I know Dad. If he’s been – like he can be, don’t put up with it, don’t let him bully you.’
She said nothing.
Simon had had a tricky start with Judith, but once he had understood her real worth, her patience and gentleness, her ability to deflect his father’s moods, her genuine love for him, her acceptance of his family and her care about them, her generous spirit, he had loved her and he was not prepared to see her hurt.
They sat down. Nothing more was said. The kitchen was quiet.
‘The other thing is the hospice. Financial crisis there. They’re going to have to close beds and put the expansion of the day care unit on hold. Doesn’t help. There’s something I want to say and you mustn’t take it wrongly, Simon …’
‘Things aren’t as they were. Well, you know that. When Chris was alive everyone relied on Cat, but she had him behind her. It’s different now. Don’t take her for granted.’
‘Have I done that?’
‘We all have.’
He shook his head. ‘You’ve done nothing of the sort.’
But he had said he would come for supper and forgotten, called in now, as he had always done, expecting a meal, a drink, a bed, a listening ear, someone he could rely on.
‘What shall I do? Do you think she needs a break – a holiday or something?’
Judith stirred her coffee thoughtfully. She still looked strained, unrelaxed – something. ‘Not sure how it could work but a weekend away without the children perhaps.’
‘Would she want to go on her own though?’
‘I was thinking she and I might go somewhere. Molly has weekends, your father could help – do him good. And you could take Sam somewhere for an afternoon, couldn’t you? Hannah always has friends to stay with. It’s just an idea.’
‘Good one. Ask her then.’
‘Ask who what?’
Cat startled them. Felix was still trailing slowly down the stairs.
‘So, do you want something to eat?’
‘Listen, I’m sorry about the other night. I didn’t let you know. I’m really sorry.’
Simon opened his arms and, after a second, Cat accepted his hug.
‘Just a bit … you know. At the moment.’
‘And the answer to eating is yes. Any leftovers?’
‘Not really. I can do you bacon and eggs and sausages.’
‘I‘d rather cook them myself, thanks, we’ve not long cleared up the kitchen.’
He threw a tea towel at her.
He could easily have spent the evening at the farmhouse but it was probably best not to outstay his welcome, though he and Cat seemed to have reverted to normal. But better if he left now, not hang about expecting supper.
Judith followed him, and at the cars he asked again if something was wrong.
‘Yes and no. Come back to supper with me? There’s a chicken pie that was meant for last night but we didn’t quite get round to a proper supper …’
Judith had always tried to make sure that whatever happened during the day, she and Richard ate together in the evening.
‘Masonic. So I’d be glad to share the pie.’
‘I’ll follow you back.’
Simon gave her a glass of wine while he mixed the salad dressing and laid the table. Judith said little, but leaned back watching him. He found fresh candles and lit them.
‘So what’s happened?’
As he had intended, Judith didn’t have time to control her reaction. He saw tears in her eyes.
‘I hate it. I hate arguing with anyone, but most of all with him. I don’t know how it started, that’s the stupid part … something trivial, but before we knew it all sorts of things were being said. Hurtful things, I mean. We’ve never done that. What’s going on, Simon? Suddenly there are resentments and jealousies we didn’t know existed being thrown to and fro. If you’d asked me a week ago if that would ever happen I’d have laughed at you. But it did. And your father has been like a … I don’t know. Cold and silent. Miles away. What’s that like?’
‘Like he always used to be but hasn’t since he met you.’ He poured her more wine. ‘Leopards. Spots.’
‘No, Simon. Please don’t.’
He had never heard her sound like this.
‘I’m sorry. Judith …?’
‘What we’ve had is a spat … nothing. It’ll sort itself out. I love Richard and the person who is your father is a different man from the one I have come to know. I understand that. But I live with him in the present and our relationship isn’t remotely the same as any he might have had years ago with all of you.’
‘No. I’m sorry.’
‘You don’t need to be. I said I understood and I do. I hope I do.’
When they ate, Simon’s mind was still on what she had just said, trying to adjust himself to what it meant, trying not to feel snubbed by it, aware that he was touchy.
He was about to say something else but Judith spoke instead, and caught him, in his turn, completely off guard.
He glanced up.
‘Something’s happened to you. Hasn’t it?’
‘IT’S WRONG. IT all seems so wrong.’
‘Why? What’s the difference?’
‘I thought the first thing was a consultation with the doctor, I thought he considered your case and made a judgement and then he let you know if he was … God, I was going to say “agreeable”, but I mean “in agreement”. This is just wrong.’
‘You’d rather I had to make the journey twice? Wait and wait, not knowing? Would you rather that, Penny?’
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