‘What? No one’s been through me. Have you spoken to Ken?’


Ken Mather was the force area press officer.


‘Yeah, he don’t know about it either. All done on the quiet.’


‘Bloody hell. How’d you find out?’


‘Em saw a trailer. Half past ten.’


He wondered whether to ring the Chief but he decided against it. The television broadcast had been sewn up behind their backs, it was not the fault or the responsibility of anyone in the force and Simon had nothing to apologise for. He was angry with Marilyn Angus and he did not understand her. If she felt another public appeal about David was necessary she should have come to them but now she had refused to have a family liaison officer with her it was difficult to keep abreast of everything she was thinking and doing. He cooked his pasta and opened a jar of tomato sauce, grated parmesan on to the lot and poured a glass of wine. As he sat down at the kitchen table the house phone rang. He hesitated, then decided to let the machine pick up for him.


At ten thirty, he turned on the television.


The presenter was a smart young woman with long blonde hair wearing a pinstripe trouser suit and the familiar media expression of grave sympathy.


‘Three weeks ago, Marilyn Angus kissed her nine-year-old son David goodbye in the drive of their spacious house in the leafy cathedral city of Lafferton.


‘Nothing has been seen of David since that morning. There have been no reported sightings, no one has come forward with any information. Police have searched the whole of Lafferton and the surrounding area. The river and the canal have been dredged and nearby peaks and moorland scoured. But nothing has been found of David. It is as though he vanished into thin air. Last week there was a possible development. A body was found in a grave in a deep and lonely ravine. The remains were those of a girl, aged between eight and ten.


‘Earlier today Marilyn Angus came into the news studio and talked to our special reporter Lorna Macintyre. She did so because she is desperate for news of her son and desperate that not enough is being done to find out what has happened to him – where he went that Tuesday morning – with whom – and why. Here is that interview.’


In the studio background, the photograph of David Angus was blown up to huge proportions. Marilyn had been placed so that he was slightly to her right, his face constantly in view when hers was. She wore a black skirt and blouse and a single strand of pearls. Her face had the hollow look, her eyes were sunken, but they were wild, too, as wild as Simon had seen them the last time he had faced her. Her hands were clasped together in front of her and she moved her fingers constantly, rubbing them together, linking and unlinking them.


The young woman interviewer spoke the usual sympathetic platitudes. It was unfair to dismiss them as false, and yet they sounded so.


‘Mrs Angus, can I ask you, first of all, how you are managing to cope? Obviously it’s impossible for anyone to imagine what your feelings are, what you are going through, but perhaps you can tell us how you try and get through each day?’


There was a terrible, long moment of silence. It seemed as if Marilyn Angus might not be able to continue at all, but then she said in a low voice, ‘By determination. I am determined to find out what has happened to David. Determined he will be found and that whoever has taken him and is holding him will be brought to justice. That’s the only thing that keeps me going really.’


‘It’s a very brave statement … and obviously you are determined. Are you finding a lot of support in this?’


‘I support myself. You have to. Neighbours, work colleagues … people ring, come to see me. They’ve been splendid. But in the end, I’m on my own.’


‘With your other child, of course … your daughter Lucy.’


‘Yes, but I can’t put any of this on to her shoulders.’


‘How old is she?’


‘She’s only twelve.’


‘Now as I just mentioned, your husband, Alan, apparently committed suicide. This has obviously been another devastating blow –’


Marilyn interrupted. ‘It was his way of coping. He got out. He couldn’t take any more.’


‘I see.’ Lorna Macintyre looked down at her notes. She seemed faintly embarrassed. ‘I imagine you are being helped in other ways, too … by the tide of public sympathy, by your own community in Lafferton and by everyone’s assistance, by the police –’


‘The police do their job, but that’s about all.’


‘I’m sorry …’


‘They haven’t found him, have they?’ Marilyn’s voice became shrill. ‘They have found no trace of David, they have no idea what happened and the whole trail seems to have been allowed to go cold.’


‘Is that how you feel? That not enough is being done by the police to find your son?’


‘I think plenty was being done – they were very active at the beginning, we had teams of officers going over my house with a fine-tooth comb an hour after I reported him missing. I don’t see so much sign of urgent activity now, though. Perhaps I’m judging too harshly.’


‘Now I gather you had a police officer, a family liaison officer, or FLO, living with you but that you asked her to leave, is that right?’


‘I wouldn’t like anyone to think I had anything at all against her personally – DC Marshall – she was a nice person. But having a police officer living in your house is an intrusion when you’re trying to cope with something like this. We’re – I’m – very private. I didn’t like it. Also … well, she was working for the force, and answerable to them first and foremost. I don’t know if people realise that … perhaps they think a family liaison officer is there to help the family and be on their side but it isn’t the case. You don’t really feel an FLO is on your side, you know. Essentially, you are under suspicion and they are spies. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh.’


‘I know this is a difficult question for you, but have you any idea, any at all, about what might have happened to David, where he might be?’


‘I wish to God I had. But no, of course not. I have none. What possible reason would someone have for taking a small boy from outside his own house in broad daylight?’


‘And have you anything to say, any appeal you’d like to make?’


‘Yes.’


Marilyn Angus looked at the camera directly. Her eyes were wild again, her hands working. ‘If you know where David is … if you are holding David … please, please think hard about what you are doing. Imagine what it’s like for me … for his family. This has killed his father already. Can you live with that? Can you? Let David go. Bring him home. Call the police and bring an end to this. I beg you. And if anyone can think and think again about some little thing they might have heard or seen … that might have something to do with David’s disappearance … no matter where you live, who you are … please come forward. Please. I’ve lost the most precious thing in the world and this ordeal is –’ She fell suddenly silent and turned her head abruptly away from the camera.


At once, the screen was filled with the picture of David, bright, alert, intelligent David, the picture everyone in the country now knew so well.


Simon switched off the set and went to the phone. He was uncertain whether to call the press officer, or the Chief, and as he hesitated it rang.


‘Simon? Paula Devenish.’


‘Ma’am. I take it you saw the interview?’


‘Yes and I’m very annoyed about it – not with you, with her, with the irresponsible media. Let me repeat what I said when I was at the station – you know that I’m on your side and even more so now. I’m absolutely certain you are still doing your utmost … all of you. Let’s get that straight.’


‘Thank you, ma’am. But …’


‘Exactly. But what I know and what the public will now believe, let alone what Marilyn Angus feels, are different things. I think we need an outside review.’


‘I’m glad you suggested it and I agree. It’s very important, particularly after tonight.’


‘I’ll see to it first thing. Don’t let this get you down. It’s unfortunate – bad publicity always is – but Mrs Angus is in a state of shock and they should be ashamed of themselves for exploiting her in the way we just saw. I gather they acted completely behind our backs.’


‘Totally. I knew nothing, nor did Ken.’


‘Right. I have every confidence in you. Understood?’


‘Understood. And thanks.’


‘Get some sleep. We’ll speak tomorrow.’


When he replaced the receiver, Simon noticed the red message light blinking and pressed it, to hear his mother’s voice.


‘Darling, I would like to talk to you. Can you come over tomorrow, I suppose it’s too late now? Will you call me back?’


He replayed the message. She sounded worried, almost panicky. It was ten to eleven and his parents were early to bed. The message had come in before nine.


He dialled the farmhouse. ‘Dr Deerbon.’ His voice was soft.


‘Hi, Chris. You on call?’


‘As ever.’


‘Has either of you spoken to Ma tonight?’


‘Don’t think so. Cat’s in the bathroom, I’ll ask her when she comes out but I’m pretty sure she hasn’t. What’s up?’


‘Not sure. I just picked up a message from her. She said she wanted to talk me, sounded a bit … I don’t know … not her usual cool self.’


‘Hang on, Cat’s just come in. It’s Si.’


‘Hi, bro. OK?’


‘I had an odd-sounding message from Ma.’


‘Oh. She hasn’t rung here. What sort of odd?’


‘Don’t know exactly – nothing she actually said – just wants to talk, would I go round if it wasn’t too late – but she sounded strung-up.’


‘Can’t think why. But then I haven’t spoken to her for a couple of days.’


They chatted for a few more minutes. Felix had been colicky, Cat was tired, Chris was still on call too often, Hannah had had a tooth out and been frightened by the experience and was waking every night, Sam was still full of stories about kidnapped boys.


They had enough on their plate. Simon hung up with reassurances about their mother and without mentioning the television interview which they clearly had not seen.


He was getting ready for bed when the phone rang again.


‘Serrailler.’


‘Simon? Darling, don’t hang up, please …’


‘Diana, I can’t talk to you, I’m in the middle of calls to the station.’


‘The David Angus business, yes.’


He did not reply.


‘I saw the interview with the mother. How dare she accuse you of negligence? It made me so angry.’


‘She is a very distressed woman. I can’t discuss this any more and I’m afraid I need to keep the phone line clear.’


‘Don’t you have your mobile?’


He did not answer.


‘Simon, I need to see you so much. We need to talk.’


‘Do we? Why is that?’


‘Please don’t be like this, please don’t do this to me. This hurts so much. I want to see you, I want to be with you. I miss you, I …’ She spoke more and more quickly, trying to hold him on the line.


Simon thought of this or that reply … that he was busy, that he would rather she did not go on making contact with him … but he said none of it. He simply put the receiver down.


Outside, the rain had begun to fall softly, blurring the lamps and making the cobblestones shine.


Fifty-one


When she had first come down the wide flight of steps out of the house she had seemed cautious and restrained, the perfect hostess welcoming a guest. Within seconds, she had burst out of the veneer of maturity she had put on and started to laugh. Now, Lucia Philips almost danced along beside Karin as they walked around the gardens, like a child let out to play, full of excitement and enthusiasm for this new toy, the Seaton Vaux estate. It had been neglected, neither money nor love had been spent on it for years and it had a weedy and disconsolate air. But it was magnificent. The Elizabethan house of rose-red brick and barley-sugar chimneys, the garden with its sunken Italianate terrace, walled orchard and acres of wild grass. Beyond a ha-ha lay the deer park, its trees overgrown and wild-looking; beyond that over another wall lay the small estate village through which Karin had driven.


Lucia Philips wore a pair of perfectly cut jeans, an understated tweed jacket, a pale pink shirt, together with ludicrously high, strappy shoes in matching pink. Her hair had been tied back but as she and Karin had come outside she had pulled the band out and let it shake loose, curling on to her shoulders.


Over coffee earlier, she had shown Karin her wedding photographs. ‘We married in Switzerland … in a beautiful village … we took it over. The church had those sweet little bells, you know? We came out married, and walked down to the lake … it was late afternoon, the sun was setting. It was golden. We had seven hundred guests, everyone flew in, but it was so simple really.’


Karin glanced at her but there was no hint of irony in her tone of voice. Simple was what she had said and how it had seemed to her.


‘Your dress is so beautiful … all those tiny crystals. Where did it come from?’


‘Oh, Valentino.’


‘Ah yes.’


‘We went through Switzerland down to Venice, then on to southern Italy, before we flew back to New York and had a post-wedding reception there too. The flowers – oh, you should have seen, you would have so appreciated the flowers – all round the room, simple flowers, you know? Nothing showy, not awful stiff designer flowers.’


‘It sounds wonderful.’


‘It was. My God, I want to have it all again. To marry Cax all over again.’


They had talked garden restoration, garden history, garden plans … trees, flowers, walls, arches, statuaries, water, and Lucia had proved to have knowledge as well as desires, serious interest as well as money.


‘I just love what you’re telling me, how you see it all. I would so like you to take this place on, Karin.’


They sat down in the last of the sun, on a low wall.


‘Listen, I am not a major garden designer, Lucia. I qualified fairly recently and I have never undertaken anything like this. I think you ought to perhaps take advice on more important names.’


Lucia took her hand and looked at her earnestly. She is, Karin thought, too beautiful to live.

***

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