‘I suppose you’re going to tell us you loved her too much.’
He shrugged. He didn’t know. Love? Love Marie? What was that? But he’d liked Marie well enough and he didn’t go in for killing, strangling. He couldn’t even think about that, someone’s hands tightening round Marie’s neck. He felt sick.
‘Tell us why you trashed Marie’s caravan, Jonty.’
He was silent, working it out. How did they know he had? Wasn’t difficult. They’d obviously have gone there and found it and who was the first person they’d think of? He’d got previous for all that sort of stuff, Marie’s mother would tell them he’d done it, she’d put anything on him, and her friends. If he said he had, then what? One thing led to another with them. But if he said he hadn’t and they’d got proof … could they have proof? Probably. He hadn’t been careful, he’d probably put his hands all over everything and left prints, or cut himself and left blood. He couldn’t remember much about it.
‘I was mad.’
‘Had a row.’
He couldn’t remember. That night was a fog in his brain.
‘Did you have a lot of rows?’
‘On and off. Like people do.’
‘But this one was more serious. Was she threatening to kick you out, had she got someone else, was that it?’
No. He knew that hadn’t been it – not that he remembered, but Marie wouldn’t have done that. Wouldn’t have dared.
‘What then? Come on, Jonty, get it over with.’
‘What? All right, I trashed the van but then I left it, I went.’
‘Where did you go, Jonty?’
‘Bad memory yours, isn’t it? Where did Marie go?’
Go? Had she gone? He had a vague sense that he’d been on his own in the van but he couldn’t be sure.
‘To work? Did you make sure she’d gone to get you drug money before you wrecked her home? Was that it? Only then you worked yourself up into such a state, you wanted more, you wanted to go on hitting out, so you went and found Marie again. You were mad with Marie, weren’t you?’
Now the woman took over.
‘Listen, Jonty, we know an awful lot about you, we know a lot about what happened that night. Now we just need to know about Marie. What happened exactly? Did you follow her? Did you maybe find her by chance, and when you saw her, something clicked inside your head because you were still in a rage?’
‘I didn’t kill her.’
‘All right, did you do anything to her? Did you beat her up? Maybe just intending to give her a good seeing-to but it all went wrong, you got out of control?’
‘No. I didn’t see her. I did the van but I never saw Marie. She …’
Suddenly, the fog cleared and he remembered watching her go out of the van, in the different clothes, that was it, she changed into her working gear, short skirt and that.
‘Jonty? Come on.’
‘We had a fight, I don’t remember what about, that’s the truth, I don’t remember anything much only I do remember now, her getting changed and going out.’
‘Going to work?’
‘Convenient this. Just remembering. Why didn’t you remember before?’
He didn’t answer.
‘And then you trashed the caravan?’
‘Then you went after her.’
‘No. I didn’t see her. I told you. I never saw Marie, I never touched her, I never killed her, right?’
‘Did you know Chantelle, Jonty?’
‘Never heard of her.’
‘Or Abi? Abi Righton. You must have known Abi, she was a friend of Marie’s.’
‘Yeah, I know Abi.’
‘What did you do to Abi, Jonty?’
‘Abi? Christ, she isn’t dead as well, is she? Jesus Christ.’
‘Come on, Jonty, where’ve you been?’
‘I swear to God I didn’t know that. Marie and her as well. Can’t get my head round all this, I tell you.’
‘Where have you been the last week, Jonty? We’ve had TV, newspapers, all with your photograph, radio’s been asking you to contact us … Someone must have seen you even if you’ve been living rough. Which it looks as if you have.’
‘Been in someone’s house.’
‘Great. Whose? Address?’
‘Somewhere off the motorway. North.’
‘Big area, Jonty.’
‘I dunno the address.’
Fat face sighed.
‘You stayed there for – how long? Days? Over a week – but you don’t know the address? Funny that.’
‘It’s a squat.’
‘You mean a crack house?’ The man.
‘Squat, like I said.’
‘And how long were you in this squat?’
‘I came out this morning. Came here, didn’t I? Soon as I heard.’
‘So you came to tell us you’d murdered her and give yourself up.’
‘NO! No, I didn’t touch Marie, I didn’t see Marie, I told you … Look … Ah, forget it. Just fu**ing forget it.’
‘All right, Jonty. We’ll leave it there for now. Interview terminated at eleven twenty-five.’
‘Can I go?’
‘No, you can’t go, what makes you think we arrest people on suspicion of murder and then let them go?’
They went out.
Five minutes later he was banged up.
At twelve o’clock, the small conference room had Serrailler, the two DIs heading up the separate investigations, and the DS heading up the team looking into the disappearance of Ruth Webber.
Serrailler looked round the table. They were tired. He could see it on their faces – tiredness and frustration, a sense of futility, that whoever it was, one killer or more, they were not ahead of him, not even close.
‘Right, before I get your reports, listen up. I know exactly how you’re feeling, believe me, because I feel the same. This is the sort of thing that drives good coppers to drink and despair. I know. I also know you’re giving it everything, I know the guys on the ground are working their socks off and right now it seems as if we’re getting nowhere fast. I still want to keep the investigations going parallel but going separately. However, I’ve little doubt the two murders and the near murder of the prostitutes are linked. Same area, same MO, probably the same motive, whatever that might be. I’m sure Mrs Webber’s disappearance has nothing to do with any of it, and now we’ve had a probable sighting, I’m even more sure, but she still hasn’t turned up. And until she does, we can’t know if there’s a link to the others or not. What’s going on with Jonty Lewis?’
Franks shook his head. ‘I’ve just had a listen to the interview tapes, guv, and a quick debrief. He isn’t confessing to anything, he didn’t see Marie after he trashed the caravan, he didn’t even know she was dead till this morning. If he’s lying – and there’s no liar like an addict – he’s convincing. Gut feeling is, he didn’t do it but if he did chances are it was only Marie, and as we think the same person killed Chantelle as well, it looks dodgy. Why would he kill Chantelle? He didn’t know her, never met her, as far as we know.’
‘He did know Abi Righton.’
‘True – but what does “know” mean in this context? She was a friend of Marie’s, they worked the same patch. Jonty was Marie’s on-off boyfriend. They didn’t spend cosy threesomes together. And when he heard Abi might be dead he seemed genuinely shaken.’
He leaned back. ‘I don’t buy it, guv. I wish I could, it would fit nice and neatly, but I don’t.’
‘Doesn’t sound as if we’ve anything to hold him on.’
‘Circumstantial. All of it. I don’t see why he would come in here at all if he’d killed her and Chantelle and attacked Abi. He’s been stoned and holed up in a crack house, somewhere off the motorway, sleeping it off. He came in here to clear himself.’
‘He’s got form, of course.’
‘Aggravated and GBH, true – and possession and dealing. Doesn’t make him a killer.’
‘Makes him violent.’
‘Not enough, guv. We just don’t have enough.’
‘Right, put Vanek and Mead back in there. Have one more go at him and pull out all the stops … If he’s guilty I want him broken down.’
‘OK. Moving on, I want to look back at this other guy we had in – the librarian. We sure about him?’
‘Honestly, sir, all we had to even start questioning him was the fact that he had this weird thing about the girls … being their friend, taking the food and drink and so on. Peculiar way to spend your evenings but it isn’t a crime. On the other hand, he fits.’
The DI nodded.
‘Loner. Not married, no close relationship, not now, not ever, so far as we could discover. Lives with his elderly mother. Keeps himself tucked away. Apparently shy. Bit of a cold fish. Odd habit he has, don’t you think? If you want to do good and help the girls on the streets, you go with the Reachout vans or join the Sally Army or something. Did we get anywhere with him at all?’
‘No. The boys said it was like interviewing a ball of string – tight packed, but when you unwound it there was yards of – well, string, and a hollow middle.’
‘Someone’s been doing the psychology course then! No forensics?’
‘No motive, guv.’
‘I disagree. I think there could be a motive. Dislike of women, fear of women, fear of sex, hatred of prostitutes coupled with guilt about them being out there … OK, don’t look at me like that. I know, I know, it’s another case of “Who’s been doing the psychology course then?” Still, I think I want another go at our librarian, but this doesn’t need a tough interview, it needs softly-softly. Put someone clever onto it, not one of your bull-bar lot.’
‘You know what I mean. All right, Andrea?’
‘Guv. We’ve gone through the CCTV tapes from the supermarket and –’
There was a tap on the door and someone thrust a piece of paper towards Serrailler and retreated. He read it quickly, frowning, then pushed his blond hair back with the unconscious gesture he made when under stress.
‘We’ve another missing woman. Leah Wilson, twenty-nine, morning cleaner at the printworks. Didn’t arrive at work, husband tried to call her at eleven ten, mobile switched off. And she cycled to work from the Cherrywood estate, via the canal towpath.’
There was a brief, total silence.
‘Andrea, let’s have your rundown and then I need to go.’
‘Guv. CCTV, as I was saying, shows what we think is Mrs Ruth Webber, but it isn’t a good tape, and the one outside the supermarket only catches the back of the woman thought to be her. The till operator who recognised her gave a better description, to be honest. We’re getting her husband in to look at the tapes, we’re doing house-to-house and car checks in the entire area of the supermarket, we’ve got a trace on anyone who was in there at the same time as this woman – some traced through their loyalty cards – which wasn’t many as it was two in the morning. Everyone cooperative. And we’re doing shops and anywhere else this woman who could be Mrs Webber might have gone. Blank so far, but local radio is doing a request for any drivers on the roads round there at that time, and there’s a new photograph of Mrs Webber being printed and going out this morning. We’ve got a team going to the cathedral to talk to people there – that’s aside from the Reverend. Or the Dean … I don’t know how he styles himself.’
‘The Dean. Thanks, Andrea, good work. It’s a lot to handle but I want to stay right on top with this one. Somebody has got to have spotted a woman on her own walking from the supermarket at 2 a.m. and then going somewhere or other. No stone unturned and all that. I’ll be around later, talk to the teams on the ground.’
He went out. The others followed him in silence.
Cat woke from a deep sleep, puzzled by the sound she was hearing, before realising that it was the buzz of her phone. She was not on call to the hospice and the days when she had done night duty for the surgery were over, so that it took her a few minutes longer than usual to come fully awake. It was half-term and the children were away for four days with Chris’s parents in Derbyshire. They saw too little of his side of the family, she thought, so they would be having a mighty catch-up with uncles, aunts and several cousins. For the first time, she was feeling content at having time in the house entirely on her own.
There was a long enough silence for her to repeat her name and ‘Hello – who is this?’
‘Cat … I’m so sorry … I know this is … very early.’
‘I’m sorry, I don’t …’
‘Stephen Webber. I do realise it’s, what, not five o’clock I don’t think, I am so sorry, I …’
She sat up. It was ten to five, still pitch dark. Stephen Webber sounded distressed, as if he was unable to catch his breath properly.
‘Stephen, what’s happened? Is it Ruth?’
‘Yes. No. Oh God.’
‘Take a deep breath. Slowly. Good. Now … what’s happened?’
‘Thank you, thank you, Cat. That’s it – nothing. Nothing at all has happened.’
‘She hasn’t come home?’
‘No.’ He sighed a long, exhausted sigh. ‘No, and there’s no news from the police. But … There’s something I … I think you should know. That I should tell you.’
‘Yes, please … I need to talk to you about this. I can’t talk to anyone else. That is, because you’re a doctor, a doctor I know …’
‘Do you want to come into the surgery first thing? I start appointments at nine but if you can come, say, at half past eight …’
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